my boss shakes men’s hands but fist-bumps women, streaming movies at work, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss shakes hands with men, but fist-bumps with women

My manager does this thing that annoys me but I don’t know if I should address it or just let it go. Whenever he says goodbye to my male colleagues, he shakes their hand. Whenever he says goodbye to me (or any of my female colleagues), he opts for a fist bump. There are more men than women on our team so oftentimes there’s a whole bunch of handshakes and then I get an awkward fist bump. It’s frustrating because it makes me feel singled out and separate from the rest of the team. I’ve even tried sticking my hand out and forcing a handshake, but the next time I see him we’re back to the fist bump. (He did shake it when I essentially forced him to, but he looked a bit uncomfortable and there was definite awkward laughter.)

I have a decent relationship with him, but he doesn’t seem very aware of how women are treated differently in our very male-dominated workplace. I think I could address it with him, but it will be awkward and I don’t know if it’s worth the effort. Should I just let this go? Any advice?

Yes, address it. This is a workplace, and he shouldn’t be treating men and women differently, even with something like handshakes vs. fist bumps.

I’d simply raise it with him in private and say, “I’ve noticed you frequently shake the hands of the men here, but seem to avoid doing it with women. Any reason?”

There are some people who doesn’t shake hands with the opposite sex for religious reasons. If that’s the situation, it would have been better for him to explain that up-front rather than leaving you to wonder why he was treating you differently, but it’s also possible he thought he could avoid calling attention to it that way and thus lessen people’s discomfort, not realizing that the mystery was actually adding to it. (And really, if that’s the situation, he might be better off stopping the frequent hand-shaking altogether.)

But if that’s not the case, and it’s just some weird issue of his about Shaking the Delicate Hands of Ladies, then you can say, “When I’m at work, I’d like to be treated like everyone else and not seen as a woman first and a colleague second. So going forward, if hand-shaking is happening, can I ask that you not distinguish by gender?”

2. Streaming Netflix at work

I have a relatively low stakes sort of question I’d love to get your take on. What’s your position on streaming (Netflix, YouTube, and the like) at work? I work in an editorial position for a digital media company. More or less, I spend eight hours in front of my computer, editing articles, emailing writers, and dealing with our freelancer budget. Sometimes I’ll stream clips from Last Week Tonight or other late-night interview shows on my phone. I never use the company wifi (I’ve been blessed with a large unlimited data plan) and the content is safe for work. I walked past a coworker’s desk a few times the other day, and she was also watching a show on her phone. In my mind, I equate this to listening to music or a podcast, but I can see how some higher-ups might not love the idea of people catching up on TV while working.

I know everyone hates the word “optics,” but … this is a situation where optics matter. The reality is, if someone can see that you have a TV show playing while you work, to a lot of people it’s going to read as “not fully engaged in her work” — especially to people who don’t interact with you much or realize that the nature of your work lets you do this without impact. And the opinions of some of those people will matter, if they’re higher up than you and have influence over you directly or indirectly.

This is silly, because most people wouldn’t have the same reaction if you were listening to a podcast via headphones. (Actually, some people even feel uneasy about that — just not nearly as many of them.) But it’s a real reaction people have, and you need to factor it in.

When something is just about how something looks and doesn’t have any real work impact, there’s a temptation to say, “Well, screw it. People shouldn’t think that, and therefore I’m not going to cater to that.” And sometimes that makes sense. But when it’s about something like your ability to watch TV while you work — i.e., not hugely important or something with high stakes — sometimes you’re better off accepting the optics won’t be good and choosing a different option.

If lots of people in your office do it, then it’s fine in your culture. But if hardly anyone does, I’d stick with audio content instead.

3. My colleague is taking months off while his parent is ill, and I’m overwhelmed

I began a new job in February and am one of two people working full-time to start up a large, international project. My counterpart, Fergus, has been at the company for over 10 years, and is a wealth of knowledge at this critical time in the project inception.

My first two weeks, Fergus was on vacation, and on his last day of vacation he contacted our manager to say that his mother was very ill and he would be taking additional time off. Fergus’ mother is dying — it could be a matter of weeks or it could be many months. Fergus understandably wants to spend as much time with her as possible. Fergus is 50, so I assume his mother is in her 70s or 80s.

During my two months on the job, Fergus has been in the office three days, and is scheduled to be in the office for a couple of days in early April. Beyond that, it seems we’re operating on a “wait and see” basis when he will come back to work. I’m coordinating an international workshop to kick off our project in May (normally it would be both of us coordinating this workshop, with him taking the lead), but he has said that is his participation at the workshop is not guaranteed. We might not know until the very last minute whether he will be leading sessions, etc.

I’ve talked with my manager about having her take on some of Fergus’ tasks, which she has been willing to do and I’m very grateful. But I’m curious as to what the norm is in this type of situation. At what point do I insist on getting additional support to cover Fergus’ work? I’m trying to balance my compassion for Fergus (knowing that I, too, would ideally want to spend as much time as possible with my parent) with my own feelings of being swamped every day at work and not knowing when support may come. I feel like I can’t mention my work frustrations without coming across as an insensitive jerk. My company has a *very* generous leave policy, so this could conceivably go on for months. And if/when his mother does pass away, I expect Fergus will take bereavement leave as well. I just had my first performance review for my probation period, and I’m meeting expectations — but I had been hoping to excel in my new role, instead of just scraping by, overwhelmed. Any advice?

Talk to your boss. Your message here isn’t about Fergus at all; it’s not “he needs to come back” or “he’s shirking his work.” It’s “I’m still fairly new, and I’m overwhelmed covering this work while trying to excel at my own — what other resources can we bring in?”

It’s great that your company has such a generous leave policy. But the implementation of it can’t be “you take off all the time you want while your coworkers are under major strain.” Your company and your manager have an obligation to step in and help you figure out how to make things work while Fergus is out, which might mean hiring temp help, bringing in help from another part of the organization, pushing some work back or eliminating it altogether, or even just making it clear to you that your team is going to get by as best as it can right now but no one is expected to excel under this kind of strain. It sounds like the latter would be frustrating to you — you want to excel! — but it just might not be realistic right now. Or rather, you and your manager might both need to redefine what excelling looks like right now.

But lay out for your manager what you’re worried about and what you need. You can do that without saying “I’m frustrated Fergus is taking so much time off.” You can say something more like, “I had been counting on Fergus’s wealth of institutional knowledge around X and Y. With him gone and me still being new, I’m really concerned about projects like A and B. Can we talk about what other support I can pull in while he’s gone, since he was going to be taking the lead on those? Is it possible to bring in additional help?”

And you can also ask about redefining your goals for this period, saying something like, “Can we talk about what I should be aiming for in my own work over the next few months? I want to make sure we’re aligned on what I should be accomplishing, and what might not be realistic while we’re down our most senior person.”

4. My staff member assumes she’s invited to meetings when she isn’t

I supervise someone fabulous and wonderful, and I very much support her professional development. I go to great lengths to bring her into as many conversations and decision-making moments as possible. But sometimes it is not appropriate for her to be in certain meetings, especially ones organized or requested by external partners. Two recent examples have been with important funders (we are a nonprofit) who requested a meeting with me and weren’t responsive when I asked if they wanted her there, too. When I tell my staff member about the upcoming meeting as an FYI, she responds in a way that reads as though she assumes she is also invited.

I’m looking for an easy script to use when she assumes she is invited to these, and for some reason i am struggling with it.

Be straightforward and matter-of-fact! If you treat it as something delicate that you need to break to her gently, it’s more likely to be weird.

Ideally, you’d be as clear as you can when you first mention the meeting — saying “I am going to meet with X” rather than “we (meaning “our team”) are going to meet with X” and so forth. But if she responds in a way that sounds like she thinks she’s attending too, you can say something like, “This one will just be me and X, but I’ll update you when I get back about how it went.” Or, “Because we’re going to be mainly talking about Z, I’m going to go to this one on my own.”

If you notice she’s regularly bristling at that or seeming put out by it, you can address that head-on by explaining whatever context will help her understand — like that it’s normal for external partners to want to talk directly with a senior counterpart, but that you’ll bring her on later for X and Y elements (if that’s the case; you don’t have to find a way to make that be true if it otherwise wouldn’t be), or that you’re keeping a certain meeting small because the partner prefers that/it’s more efficient for this topic/you need her focused on Z right now/etc. Or you might frame it as a general “let’s talk through the times when I’ll ask you to attend and times when I may not, so that we’re both on the same page and you’re not wondering each individual time.”

5. Can I ask why I didn’t get an interview?

A couple months ago, I applied for a job that I thought I would be a very strong candidate for. I received an automated response saying that theh has received my application, but I didn’t receive an interview, nor am I expecting one anymore. But I feel thrown off! I didn’t think I was a shoe-in exactly, but I felt like I was much more qualified than many other candidates would be, and qualified for a first round interview at least.

How annoying would it be if I wrote to the hiring manager and gently requested information about why I wasn’t selected for an interview? If I made a grievous spelling error in my cover letter, or if she perceived that I was lacking experience in some field that I didn’t anticipate — no matter what the reason, it would be really useful for me to know why I wasn’t considered to be in the running.

You can try and it’s not terribly annoying to do that, but it’s rare to get a substantive response when you weren’t ever interviewed. (Even if you were interviewed, you won’t always get useful feedback, but you have a higher chance of it after they’ve actually spoken with you.)

But the thing is, it doesn’t really work the way you’ve laid it out here. For most jobs, you don’t automatically get an interview just because you are highly qualified. You get an interview if you’re one of the most qualified candidates. And if there are 30 highly qualified candidates, probably only four or five of them are getting interviews. If those four or five people were just stronger matches for some reason, then you’re getting rejected — and that doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with you as a candidate, just that others were better.

So it’s very likely that any feedback you get will be some version of “we went with candidates who were a better match.” That doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t try asking anyone, because occasionally there’s something else to be learned. But if you’re really just asking because you’re surprised a seemingly qualified candidate didn’t get interviewed … well, this is almost always the answer.

{ 479 comments… read them below }

  1. Cat owner

    LW 2: If it’s something talk-y like Last Week Tonight then an option can be to turn your phone face down with your headphones in and just listen. I do this sometimes with some YouTubers who do video essays. You might miss out some visual gags but you’ll get the main thrust.

    1. MK

      To be frank, I don’t see how one can edit articles while also watching videos; however well you can multitask, yours eyes can’t be on two screens at the same time.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I’m also kind of astounded. I’ve certainly done processing with a video in the background, but it was for work that was mindless and did not require my attention. I’m impressed (and surprised) that folks can edit articles while watching videos, period, let alone videos on another screen.

        1. a heather

          I grew up with the TV on all the time, so mostly it’s background noise for me. Music sometimes grates on my nerves (not sure why), and I get annoyed with podcasts because I honestly want to pay attention to them and can’t while also getting work done. But a random person talking in a youtube video is fine, or a TV show I’m kind of paying attention to but not really closely (rarely looking) helps me concentrate better.

          1. Works in IT

            I do this as well when I’m at home. I don’t really pay attention to the video, I just halfheartedly tune in to the audio as an alternative to silence. Music is not as effective, because sometimes a slow song turns on when I “want” a faster song or vice versa. And audio books are both very expensive and much more likely to actually distract me than some random tv show that I’m just listening to.

          2. RPCV

            Same. I can’t listen to podcasts because there’s content there that I want to pay attention to, but a streamer is just background noise and the videos are only occasionally interesting from a visual perspective. They’re kind of like nerd talk radio, really. I can glance over if there’s anything interesting sounding happening on screen or watch for a minute while a query runs or I wait for Excel to load or what have you, and it’s a lot less distracting than a podcast or even music, which my mind tends to focus in on more than a person’s voice chatting about whatever random stuff is going on that day.

          3. Anax

            Ditto, that’s how I work. I like to listen to letsplays on Youtube, because there usually isn’t anything important in them – it’s fine if I’m focusing on work for ten minutes and lose track of what’s happening in the video.

            Music is actually more likely to distract me, because I want to listen to the lyrics, and I’m a bit of a chair-dancer when I’m not paying attention. And podcasts… oof, I can only listen to a neat podcast when I’m doing *completely* mindless things, like alphabetizing papers or something.

          4. Steve

            If OP#2 is just using it for background noise, then the picture doesn’t matter. In which case OP can turn off the screen (or put the phone face down to hide it) and nobody will be able to tell the difference between a video and a podcast.

          5. AnnaBananna

            Yup. This is often why crafters will hold off on ____ (fussy cutting, knitting, etc) until they’re watching TV, because it’s incredibly easy – nay preferred – to do those two things at once.

            That said, because articles contain words, and you’d be listening to words, I don’t see how one would be able to substantially focus. As a commenter stated above about music, if I am working on editing a report, I can’t listen to music that is super driven or super verbal. It just causes too much havoc in my head and then I get anxious. But if I’m working on graphic design (different side of my brain), bring on the words and music of any kind.

            1. Solana

              I like to work on videogame cross-stitches while watching TV or Let’s Plays, but nothing that needs to be subtitled. I also get distracted while watching BBC documentaries.

        2. Jadelyn

          I used to let movies run on my PSP when I worked in a call center, but to be fair, it was pretty mindless work I was doing. I just propped the PSP up right under my monitor so I could see it peripherally even as I was typing into our system on my monitor.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood

          Yet another point showing how different we all are…. When I’m at work I can listen to music without words, music in other languages, and a few pop songs that are repetitive enough to be background drones.
          Video? I won’t even go to restaurants that mount multiple TVs on one wall.
          I wonder if this is another reason that open offices are so popular — managers who are so able to focus despite extraneous video & audio input that they don’t realize many of their employees aren’t the same.

          1. AnnaBananna

            I actually love this thought. It makes a lot of sense. I’m an HSP and have ADHD, so too much of anything really will break my concentration incredibly easy. You just might have solved why I hate sports bars (though I like concerts…hmm, this theory has holes still…).

            1. Matty

              I actually don’t think the enjoyment of concerts disproves this at all! At a concert your focus is on the performance, as is everyone elses. It’s a sigular stimuli. At a sports bar, though, there’s multiple points of stimulation – the sports, company if you have any, any food or drink, servers, etc. And then to top that, everyone elses focus is on their own thing. So basically what you have is potentially hundreds of different points of stimuli distracting and competing for your attention. It might be helpful sometimes to write down situations that you find hard to deal with as well as ones that you thrive is and try to find out how they compare and contrast – it might help identify patterns, and knowing those will help you address them more successfully.

        4. American Ninja Worrier

          Editor here. It may be that the OP watches TV between articles as a way of shifting gears or sort of cleansing their brain palate. Alternatively, some brains kind of require more “noise” than others to focus. If the editor’s spent their whole career in a busy newsroom, they may be accustomed to always having some kind of TV or police scanner going in the background and a truly quiet workspace is too quiet.

          Personally, I like to have episodes of shows I’ve seen a million times (Parks & Rec or Frasier are favorites) in the background while I’m working from home.

        5. jcarnall

          I used to edit a weekly newsletter and approximately 90% of the work was literally cutting and pasting and formatting, all of it thngs I could readily do with something on in the background.

          The 10% that required my full attention and the part where I switched everything off except the newsletter, was the selection process at the start (figuring out what to put in/what to leave out, of all the things I could have included over a week), and the review at the end where I checked for glitches in formatting/spelling mistakes.

          But I agree with Alison – the optics are bad and that’s why I used to work from home if at all possible those days – because that way no one would see I was apparently not focussing on my work. The quality of the newsletter was regarded as extremely high and I got external as well as internal praise for it, but there’s no doubt it didn’t look good that I was doing 90% of the work while apparently watching streamed TV.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I think it depends on the type of work, as well as how much attention you’re paying to the video. I have a monthly ritual of doing a type of editing work that’s become particularly rote for me (don’t worry, it’s not this blog, typos not withstanding) with Veep in the background. I’m not fully focused on the show, but it keeps things entertaining enough that I don’t lose my mind and the work turns out fine.

        But I wouldn’t be able to do that if I were actually writing something.

        1. On Fire

          Definitely depends on the kind of work. Several of my colleagues have earbuds in and something streaming at work – the nature of what they do allows it. My role involves a lot of travel, so I have podcasts playing while I drive. But when I’m in the office, I’m often writing, researching, editing video … so at those times, I don’t listen to or watch anything.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood

            I’ve learned the hard way that if I’m listening to an audiobook, I need to turn on the GPS audible directions. Otherwise I’ll blow right on by my stop — even on my daily commute.

        2. Silent Worker

          It hurts my heart that you’d put on Veep and not pay rapt attention to every second of it.

          But actually, I can see putting on something a little more…I dunno how to say it…low brow, I guess like a talk show or a reality show or something just as background noise while doing some busywork, but streaming shows with actual plots that the viewer is supposed to pay attention to I can’t really fathom doing at work.

          1. SarahTheEntwife

            I’ll sometimes put on things that I’ve seen a million times before (not at work, but I’m usually using all my screens at work so that’s the main reason more than distraction) when cleaning or doing other household stuff as kind of friendly company that I don’t have to pay strict attention to, even though I might have been glued to the screen the first time I watched it.

            1. miss_chevious

              Yeah, this is what I do. I’m not using that screen time to pay attention to the plot of a new show, I’m using a familiar show as white noise to help me focus. At work, I often “watch” baseball games in this way while I do certain tasks.

              1. Sophie before she was cool

                Baseball is absolutely the best for this — most of the time, nothing is happening and it’s all white noise. When something does happen, it’s at a frequency where looking up and paying attention for a second is a good distraction/mental break before getting back to the work.

                Happy Opening Day!

              2. American Ninja Worrier

                I used to stream any random basketball game I could get my hands on while I worked just for the soothing sound of those sneakers on the floor.

                1. AnnaBananna

                  I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks it’s comforting. Were you also a young basketball player like me?

                2. Erin W

                  That’s interesting, because I loathe that sound! I can hang out in the room while my husband watches almost any sport, but NOT basketball.

            2. Baby Fishmouth

              Yupp, Friends was my go-to when I used to study for exams, because I could zone in and out when I needed a break because I knew the episodes so well.

            3. Allison

              Yup, when I work from home it’s a lot of Parks and Recreation, How I Met Your Mother, Gilmore Girls, etc.

              At work, I don’t use Hulu or Netflix, but I’ll put on a Vine compilation or something on YouTube as background noise. If I think I missed a visual gag, I hit the back button, enjoy it, and go back to work.

            4. Parenthetically

              Yep, same here. I listen to audiobooks or podcasts if I’m doing something truly mindless, but if I’m cleaning — going from room to room, turning the vacuum on and off, etc. — a movie or a show I know well is the best company for that task for me.

              1. Autumnheart

                Whereas I prefer audiobooks for cleaning, because otherwise I’m too liable to stick around and watch the show instead of vacuuming upstairs. :)

          2. LadyL

            That’s why I prefer reruns of my favorite shows (including Veep) when I need some background noise. It’s not distracting because I basically have the eps memorized at this point.

            1. Rusty Shackelford

              Mmmm, BBC Sherlock is my favorite for this type of background noise. But yeah, if it’s something I’m actually *listening* to? I can’t do it if I’m working on anything that involves words.

          3. Lily Rowan

            Sure — when I worked from home, I usually had HGTV on, because you don’t have to pay attention to it, or can give it a minute or two of attention at a time. But I also understand that there are people who can do focused work with something more substantive also on. Back in the day, my father used to listen to talk radio all day in the office, which I could never understand!

          4. LadyofLasers

            Yeah, having background noise helps me a lot to stay focused, but if the plot is at all interesting it totally backfires!

            While I was working on my dissertation, I would put on a series of really bad hallmark original movie on in the background. You know, the ones where a handsome man with a dog/kid helps the city girl rediscover the meaning of small town/white/american Christmas.

              1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

                Omg I love Unsolved Mysteries!

                I’m instantly a little kid again at my grandma’s house, and then feeling anxious because WHAT IF I saw something that could help solve a case and didn’t call 800-876-5353? I would be letting Robert Stack down. :(

                1. curly sue

                  Did you hear that Netflix is producing a new series? They bought 12 episodes, one case per episode (as far as the press release goes). Can’t wait!

          5. smoke tree

            I have a spectrum depending on what I’m doing. For something totally mindless/non-verbal like formatting or choosing photos, I can listen to a podcast I’m fairly interested in. For writing or editing, I can only listen to instrumental music. But there are some medium-range tasks that don’t require my full attention where I won’t be too distracted by a podcast I’ve heard before, or one that’s more rambling/conversational where it doesn’t matter if I’m only half listening.

          6. Ask a Manager Post author

            Don’t worry; Veep only works because I’ve seen every episode a zillion times and so I don’t have to pay rapt attention. (P.S. The new season comes out on Sunday.)

          7. Jadelyn

            Or just something very familiar – I can put on certain shows, like Archer or Soul Eater or B99, and I know them pretty much by heart anyway, so they fade into the background when I need to have my attention somewhere else, and then I can shift my attention back to the show when I’m doing something boring or simple.

      3. Zona the Great

        I “watch” tv while I work as well. I’m a program manager for a state agency. Huge work load-very productive. I rarely, if ever, look down at it or engage in it at all. I cannot concentrate in silence and need a distraction for lack of a better word. When news stations started using three different crawls while you watched an anchor, I could engage in all of it while listening to music.

        My boss has never said a word about it and I’m not the only one who does it including a seventy year old woman.

        1. RUKiddingMe

          Likewise. I can not concentrate in silence. I need something in the background even if I’m not really paying sttention to it.

          1. sacados

            SAME.
            I find total silence incredibly distracting, I need music or something to concentrate against.
            But there are definitely levels of it. For example, in college if I was studying for an exam/writing a paper/doing something very intensive that I needed to really concentrate on (as opposed to just doing normal homework/assignments) then the music needs to be something that has no words or that I can’t sing along to. Rachmaninoff was always a particular favorite for those moments.

            It’s not uncommon at my office either for folks to be watching some sort of show/video while working (especially as many people have dual monitor setups). So I think it just boils down to whether or not your manager is OK with it.

            1. Not So Recently Diagnosed

              I was diagnosed with adult ADD last year, and my therapist told me that needing the multiple sound sources is a common coping mechanism for adults when ADD is untreated. Even with the medication now, I work best with some sort of noise in the background. It allows whatever scattered back-brain I have from tearing me away from my work to pursue nonsense because it’s occupied with the background noise. My main-brain is able to retain focus on what I’m doing.

              It’s like the noise drowns out the part of my mind that keeps distracting me. When I work from home, I put on video game playthroughs of games I’ve already played. Easy to divide focus on, but also look up every now and then when I need to come up for air.

          2. Oxford Comma

            Ditto. I treat YouTube or Twitch or podcasts like radio. Often when I’m at home, even if the TV is on, it’s not like I’m watching it while I’m doing other things. It’s just background noise and I feel more focused.

        2. Cindy Featherbottom

          Same. My work requires a lot of concentration, but one of my work areas is DEAD SILENT. I have to have something on in the background or I just can’t concentrate (its just creepy to have it that quiet). I usually put on netflix but I put my phone facing down. None of my bosses have a problem with it, but they also know that I’m constantly working and busting my butt to get things done. I think its partially an optics thing and partially a work ethics thing. If people know that you get your work done, then its probably not a big deal. If your work starts slipping, then it might start to look bad.

      4. Scarlet2

        It depends if you’re actually watching the screen or not. I often listen to youtube videos while working, but it’s just like listening to a podcast. I wouldn’t do it with Netflix though, because I’d be too tempted to watch the screen while listening to a TV show or a film.

      5. I Took A Mint

        I agree. I know everyone has different multitasking abilities, but watching TV (in any form) is a classic sign of “not paying attention to work.” It’s one thing if the job is something menial/physical/rote where your hands are busy but your mind is (mostly) free, but if it’s something where your mind should be engaged and focused… even if you CAN do it, it doesn’t look like working.

        Personally I think podcasts are similar to TV. If I was asking someone to do language-based or brain-intensive work and found out they were doing it while watching TV or listening to podcasts or an audiobook, I would check the end product extra thoroughly.

        1. Electric Eel

          My issue is that if you listen to speech while editing you may accidentally type the words you hear!

        2. TechWorker

          Everyone is different. Like others above, I find I mostly tune out the podcast/tv show and it keeps enough of my brain busy to mean I’m focussed and less likely to procrastinate.

          I don’t watch tv at work (except in ‘podcast mode’ like someone suggested above, ie screen face down) but I did watch tv whilst studying for my degree. I’d say tv does decrease the pace of work a bit but it also made it way less depressing to study 10 hrs a day. Maybe I could have fit it into 8 without tv and then taken 2 hrs off… but I would have realllly struggled to stay motivated for those 8! (Work is obv different, I’m getting paid haha)

          1. MCMonkeyBean

            Right but the point is even though some people may be able to multitask like that, enough people can’t that it looks bad if someone sees you doing it.

        3. Just Employed Here

          I can do the editing with something spoken in the background, but not if they are in the same language…

      6. MommyMD

        Yes. And they aren’t paying her to watch Netflix. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s a bad idea and no matter how much someone thinks they can multitask this kind of stuff interferes. We can’t do everything we want at work.

        1. Ramblin' Ma'am

          Yes. Not saying this is the case here – but statistically, most people are much worse at multitasking than they think. I’ve definitely seen this in my workplace before.

          1. Gymmie

            I would argue it is impossible to multi-task on anything that requires active thinking. You can have various responsibilities and tasks going and once and switch back and forth, but it is literally impossible to have two different thought patterns running through your brain at the same time. Like actively telling a story verbally while you are writing another story. I mean, it’s always a job description that you can multi-task and I need people who can switch what they are doing quickly (working intensely while getting interrupted with calls, just on another immediate task in the middle of something else), and this is what we take it to mean.

            1. Snark

              Yeah. If it’s gabbling away in the background while you do stuff, it’s not great but ok. If you’re actively watching, you’re just splitting your attention, and that’s not kosher.

            2. Renamis

              I’ve totally written a story (I do RP with a friend over chat) while telling my coworkers a different story at lunch. If you want to be technical it was probably switching really quickly between the two, but I do this all the time on break. Not everyone’s brain works the same, and for me as long as I’m only getting one input from each sense I’m very good at keeping the different streams from mixing. What I CAN’T handle is two conflicting streams, like my coworker talking to me and music. One wins, one loses, and usually the music wins. I don’t have an office gig right now, but if I did I’d hate if I couldn’t have something in the background because my work absolutely suffers if I’m bored stiff. And only one singular thing at a time is way too slow for my brain, so bored stiff it would be.

              1. Anax

                That’s definitely how I work, and I wonder if it’s a neurological difference. I’m autistic, and I know my GF works the same way and is ADHD – our neurotypical boyfriend is like many of the other commenters, and can’t fathom how we multitask this way.

                For me, having some mindless sensory input is a stim; it helps me focus, and while I certainly *can* focus with different stimulae, like sucking on a hard candy or fidgeting in my chair, audio input tends to be the most convenient and least disruptive to others.

            3. AnnaBananna

              This….is misleading. Not only can I do two things at once, but I require most times as someone with ADHD. Also, I can hold a conversation while I’m typing notes or emails without an issue.

              What I find interesting about the netflix issue is the visual impairment. If I’m staring at Netflix, I can’t stare at my spreadsheet. Both of those require eyes, and we only have two. But just listening to something drove on, yes we can 100% multitask.

          2. Stormfeather

            But the way some people use TV (including it sounds like some here), they’re not really “multitasking” so much as “having white noise, occasionally taking a micro-break to pay a brief amount of attention and clear the brain.”

            1. Ramblin' Ma'am

              True, maybe “multitasking” is the wrong word. I do think sometimes people underestimate how much the background/white noise is affecting them. (Not everyone – but some people.)

              1. mcr-red

                I write a story (novel) and listen to music with lyrics all the time. I can write up my work presentation on Why TPS Reports are Awesome while listening to my coworkers gab in my open-office about what show they watched last night. When I was in college, I wrote all of my papers with either Led Zeppelin on in the background or the television. Some people can tune out the background noise and concentrate on what they are doing, and cannot have silence as a background. If it is dead silent in the house when I’m trying to write, I will hear ALL THE NOISES. The dog down the street, the bird outside, the air conditioner kicking on and off, all of that is a constant distraction. With music or the television on, it’s all random noise that I can now block.

            2. a1

              But why do you need something visual for white noise? Why not the radio or something else just audio? I get it, I keep the TV on in the background at home a lot, but not at work. I also don’t concentrate well unless there some other noise, but I listen to music or talk radio, I don’t stream a TV show or movie. I want background noise at work, and noise is not visual.

              1. Oxford Comma

                I don’t know how to explain it other than I’m not looking at the screen. It’s just on in the background and usually at a low level.

              2. LJay

                Because anything audio I would want to attend to. Music draws my attention to the music, and even if I do classical music I was a music major and I want to actively listen.

                If it were a podcast, I would be playing it because I wanted to actually pay attention to it (though maybe I should branch out and look for podcasts that are maybe designed to not be fully attended to. I’m sure they’re out there.)

                Talk radio is out. All talk radio is sports or politics and I’m passionate about both to the point I would be distracted by how much I agreed or disagreed with the opinions.

                The same episode of Friends for the thousandth time is not something I even really want to pay attention to. I know what happened in the episode. I know what’s going to happen. If I get in the zone at work and completely cease hearing the show, I won’t have to rewind to catch what was missing.

                It’s like the white noise of a fan, but with just enough interest that it keeps my brain from going nuts with boredom while I compose emails or upload documents or deal with inventory issues or whatever.

                I don’t ever even look at the screen.

            3. smoke tree

              I think it really depends on the task. I don’t watch TV while working, but sometimes I will have a podcast on in the background. For me, the kind of task this works for is a repetitive one that requires a few seconds of active mental engagement followed by several minutes of digging up files or something similarly dull. I just ignore or mute the podcast for the 30 seconds that I actually have to think, and it keeps me from getting too bored with the file management part. Anything that requires more engagement than that, and it doesn’t work for me.

        2. Anna

          If she’s getting the work done, then she’s doing what they pay her to do. She isn’t asking if it would be “stealing from the company”, she’s asking if it would look bad. Yes, it would probably look bad. No, she’s not sitting back with her feet on her desk watching Netflix when she should be working.

      7. Batman

        I think it really depends on the person and the work. Also, as others have said, they aren’t paying attention to the what’s on the screen, they just have it on as background noise (I did this a lot in my old job because it was the kind of job where I could do that).

      8. Elizabeth West

        I definitely can’t. I can’t even do it when vocal music is playing–it has to be instrumental. Fortunately, I have a large collection of soundtracks on my phone, so I can just plug in headphones and listen to those.

      9. mcr-red

        I work in an open office and it ranges from dead quiet to all out chaos, depending on who is in at the time. It is not unusual to have people working on the TPS report and either listening to music or listening to some sort of video on YouTube. I have listened to videos of interest to me, rap music, and even the local news while doing my work. I have also done the National Novel Writing Month in the past, and I HAVE to have a book playlist of songs (with lyrics) to be running in the background while I write. Dead quiet will distract me before anything else.

      10. AKchic

        I do data entry all day. Music is great and all, but I sometimes start to focus on the music if I hear something *new*. So, I try to ensure that anything I am hearing is stuff I’ve heard before.
        Same with movies/shows. I’m currently “rewatching” Heroes because it is just background noise. Sometimes I’ll rewatch Supernatural episodes, or Doctor Who or even cartoons.
        I also keep my personal screen minimized, use no internet (everything is either dvd/cd or hard drive), and keep the volume down low so it sounds like a low radio to anyone standing in my doorway or on the other side of my desk. Occasionally I’ll listen to old radio serials, but I have to be in the right mood for it.

      11. JM60

        For something like Last Week Tonight, “watching” it might mean listening to it, and occasionally looking at the screen when something interesting is probably showing. I often “watch” YouTube videos on one window of my desktop (at home), while working on another window.

      12. yet another library anon

        I actually have a lot of youtube videos that I’ve watched multiple times (Lindsay Ellis’s especially), so when I’m doing something a little monotonous (like double-checking records), having it on helps me focus. I do generally keep the screen turned away from me, or face down. It’s the sound of someone talking, and in a very specific way, that works for me, but since I know the videos so well, I can also tune in and out.

        I’ve tried silence, and I just lose focus after a while (especially bad if folks are whispering around me). Even music doesn’t always help. So long as I don’t have to read comprehensively (like, to have enough understanding of what an item is to summarize it), it works. When I do need to read comprehensively, I turn it all off, but it’s still harder to focus.

      13. The elephant in the room

        I’ve done editorial work and still do to an extent. I know it seems weird, but it IS possible depending on what you’re editing for. I’ve found that in some cases where I’m editing for format, spelling, and punctuation, it’s better if I’m not fully engaged with the content because then I’m reading and not editing. (In fact, a trick many editors in my field use is to read backwards so you don’t get sucked in, because the content can be distracting.)

    2. Amylou

      Yes I’ve sometimes done that, it’s a bit similar to podcast or radio. When I was in a job where sometimes I had to cut out lots of cards or stuff hundreds of envelopes, I did do Netflix and put on some sitcom.

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          Or it requires a type of detail that doesn’t include processing language. I can create graphics all day long while paying attention to a podcast, because I don’t have to think about words.

    3. Pickles

      Am I the only person who doesn’t think Last Week Tonight would be “safe for work”? That show can be pretty vulgar.

      Not trying to make it about show choices, but I would have definite qualms about employee judgement. Especially if it was also without headphones – I don’t see where #2 clarified, but hope that’s a given.

      Also can’t think of an easy way to convey optics on the not using company resources part.

      1. MK

        I don’t think it’s vulgar, but it contains profanity, occasionally shows photos that wouldn’t be ok for everyone and the content is mostly political. I think whether it’s workplace-appropriate would depend on the workplace.

        1. Pickles

          Yeah, maybe vulgar wasn’t a good word choice, but the politics, profanity, and other things that go on in that show were exactly what I was thinking about. Those have real potential to make for an uncomfortable workplace. It’s a choice of show that would make me question their judgment on appropriate workplace boundaries and supporting a healthy and inclusive workplace environment.

      2. American Ninja Worrier

        I think it would be inappropriate for most offices, but it sounds like OP’s job is somewhat news-related and probably has a different idea of what’s appropriate for work. Honestly, sometimes plain ol’ CNN isn’t really suitable for a typical workplace depending on what’s happening in the world. And the idea of what’s appropriate for work would even probably vary between, say, BuzzFeed and the Wall Street Journal.

      3. Lars

        There’s an uncensored penis shown at least a few times in every season, I was also like “yeah maybe not the best choice”. (To be fair this might be changed for YouTube.)

      4. I Took A Mint

        Agreed, it’s on HBO, not CBS. I don’t think it’s appropriate for most workplaces.

    4. KP

      Ah but here’s the rub: There’s a reason OP 1 isn’t using the company wifi to stream Netflix and why you’re flipping your phone over — to disguise or hide what you’re watching or listening to from coworkers or higher-ups. My office also is editorial and IT has blocked Netflix, and bans certain IP numbers the firsr time they detect the number downloading say movies from Amazon Prime. I don’t know, it’s low-stakes but with a sort-of built in answer.

      1. doreen

        Maybe- but I flip my phone/tablet over plenty of times outside of work. And it’s not to disguise/hide what I’m watching/listening to – it’s to avoid distracting/annoying other people who aren’t watching. For example, on long car trips, I might listen to something from my DVR or Netflix while my husband is driving and listening to sports radio- but the flicker from the screen is likely to distract /annoy him so I turn it face down.

      2. Proxima Centauri

        I think you’re reading a lot into the reason. I use YouTube to listen to music I work. I don’t use the company Wifi (they need the bandwidth so we can use our jobs) and flip my phone over because I don’t have the need to watch the videos, just listen. There is no nefarious intent there.

      3. nnn

        It depends on the employer. My employer’s policy is personal internet use is allowed, but high-bandwidth use is banned and blocked specifically because they don’t want to pay for extra bandwidth or slow the whole network for everyone.

      4. General Ginger

        I don’t think these are weirdly sneaky or nefarious practices. For example, I use YouTube to listen to music or ASMR-type repetitive noise. I don’t use the company wifi, because unlike my company, I have unlimited data, and am the only one using it. I flip my phone over because the screen flickering in the corner of my eye bothers me when I’m listening to the audio.

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Streaming is banned due to bandwith issues not because it’s a naughty no-no kind of thing like sites who may compromise the system.

        Downloads can be an issue for security purposes and so that’s why they’re frowned upon. It’s still fine to do it on your phone with your data package

      6. Parenthetically

        I dunno, I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s a guilty conscience thing at all. My husband mostly listens to music through YouTube on his phone. He’s not watching the videos, but the videos are on his screen. He doesn’t do it at work because our data package wouldn’t support it and he doesn’t want to stream video on the work internet. That doesn’t mean he’d be doing anything WRONG, or impacting his productivity when he’s in the office.

      7. LJay

        The reason they’re not using company wifi is because companies generally don’t like you using their bandwidth for personal stuff. Streaming videos do a lot more than music does, but pretty much everywhere I’ve worked has banned both.

        And they’re flipping their phone over because they’re not looking at it. If it was facing forward, people would assume they were watching it. Or it could distract other people if it’s in their peripheral vision.

    5. Spreadsheets and Books

      This is extremely accepted in my department (F500 corp finance), even to the point that turning your phone over isn’t even really necessary. It’s really not uncommon to see people with a sporting event or the news on a third monitor.

      If I have to do something like assemble binders or print a lot of things, I will always be watching something.

    6. Wing Leader

      I wanted to add, for OP#2, that you can also talk to your boss and see how he/she feels about this. If your boss is fine with it as long as you’re still producing good work, I think you can keep doing it.

    7. Jennifer

      I do too. It’s not different from listening to a podcast. In fact, some talk shows, like The Daily Show, have podcast versions of the show.

  2. Dot Warner

    LW1: Alternately, you could ask the fist-bumper if they’d prefer to fist-bump everybody.

        1. MCMonkeyBean

          Yeah the idea of shaking hands every time you say goodbye seems very odd to me. I am wondering if this is like a daily thing, or if this is the type of thing where the big boss works in a different place most of the time and it’s a Big Thing when he comes to visit so this kind of formality might make a little more sense?

      1. Scarlet2

        Yeah, that’s the obvious solution for someone who seems to be uncomfortable shaking hands with someone of the opposite gender. Honestly, I’d find it odd for a manager to shake hands with everyone in a row after a meeting or at the end of the day, even if he wasn’t treating women differently.

  3. savannnah

    LW1: Most religious rules around handshakes are not about handshakes but about any touching of the opposite sex so I doubt this situation has a religious element. A fist bump is still contact. Many men either don’t shake my hand or go in for a hug at the close of meetings even when they make sure to shake every other man’s hand. It’s annoying to be sure.

      1. Just Employed Here

        I have mentioned it here before, but it bears repeating: My former boss went around the office every morning to shake hands with all the men, and kiss all the women on the cheek.

        This was 15 years ago, not in the 1950s. Sure, there was a cultural component to it, but still.

        1. Nicelutherangirl

          Wow. Someone watched a few too many episodes of “Family Feud” and thought he was Richard Dawson.

        2. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff

          It happened to me a couple of months ago! Someone we met during a workshop (read: someone who was equally a stranger to everyone) shook all the men’s hands and then came close to me for the cheek-kissing. I promptly stuck my hand out, which he accepted with a “humpf, as you like it”. WTF?

          1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff

            Also, Italians do cheek-kiss in social settings (ick), but definitely not in the workplace, so at least for me the “cultural thing” is an excuse.

      2. nnn

        I’ve had that too, it’s absolutely bizarre! They have some mental block about shaking hands with women.

        I’ve also seen young men asking in advice forums “Is it appropriate to shake hands with women? Or is it more appropriate to hug?”

        I wish I knew how they got there!

        1. yet another library anon

          I think a lot of the men in my mom’s church don’t shake women’s hands not because of the contact thing, but because of some kind of, like…sex role thing? Like, if I put my hand out, they’ll shake it, but they rarely offer when we’re being introduced. I dunno, I think I remember my mom saying something about it once, but it’s hard to tell what’s actually part of her church’s idea on gender roles, and what’s just her own weird ideas of what’s “lady-like.”

          And either way, I probably wasn’t listening. I shake hands.

          1. Clisby

            At least according to traditional American etiquette, a man isn’t supposed to offer his hand to a woman – he waits for the woman to offer her hand first (in social situations; in business they should just treat everyone the same.) Church is more of a social setting, so maybe these people are just old-fashioned.

        2. aurora borealis

          As a woman, I more often than not avoid shaking women’s hands because I don’t care for the limp, sweaty, tip of the finger only hand shake, it skeeves me out. I will shake a man’s hand much faster than a woman’s. I was brought up that a person (man or woman) should have a strong firm handshake and meet the person’s eyes. The majority of women don’t seem to be able to do all of those at once, so I avoid it.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I remember once hearing/reading someone say that some people who don’t shake the opposite sex’s hands for religious reasons may be comfortable with a fist bump because it’s less intimate in a way; you’re not grasping/holding the hand. But yeah, I don’t know.

      And yes with the weird sexist divide some men have where they shake the men’s hands and hug the women. You men get the manly shake, and you ladies will get an affectionate hug because for some reason you’re in a different category (less professional? more informal? they see you like a daughter? I don’t know but it’s ugh).

      1. whingedrinking

        In my experience (and this actually makes it kinda worse in some ways) a lot of men aren’t comfortable interacting with other men in ways that are or could be perceived as intimate. Women, meanwhile, are seen as “safe”. So they automatically look to a woman if they want a hug. Blech.

        1. it's-a-me

          If someone tried to hug me at work they would receive a flat palm upon their chest and a firm yet gentle push away.

        2. Willis

          I think I get the inverse of this. Occasionally at the end of a project, a woman client will hug me (also a woman) then look at my business partner (a man) sort of realizing “oh, I think I should hug him too, or otherwise it will be awkward.” Of course by that point, its awkward either way. While I’m not anti-hug in regular life and don’t particularly care if a client hugs me, a handshake (or a nod and a verbal greeting if you can’t shake for some reason) for everyone is so much easier!

        3. I Took A Mint

          This. When men get the “hug” it’s not a real hug, it’s clasp-hands-and-touch-the-back-of-their-shoulder. Then ladies get the full two-arm chest-touching hug.

          1. Pescadero

            Actually… that really depends on the “hugger”.

            We’ve got a safety guy here at work that is a hugger – and it’s always the full two-arm chest-touching hug, whether or man or woman.

            …and he’s slightly more likely to hug men.

        4. RUKiddingMe

          Also, let’s not gloss over the males who will…take advantage(?) of that “comfort” level with women to hug …because plausible deniability.

          I’m not saying it’s all the makes all the time, so anyone feeling the need to throw out a “not all males” thing, save your time.

          I’m saying it happens often enough, at work and elsewhere, to be A Thing.

          1. WakeUp!

            Eh, I don’t know. There’s definitely a sexist dynamic underpinning hugging women and shaking men’s hand, especially in the workplace…but there’s a pretty obvious different between a too-close, could turn into butt groping hug, and a normal work hug, which is essentially a shoulder tap.

            1. Slink

              There’s NEVER a good work hug, if it is relegated only to women, while men get the ‘i can take you seriously we are equals’ handshake. This is how we view it. Also i’ve Been sexually harassed enough by creepy coworkers and bosses, that all began as the innocent hug in front of others. So so harmless. No. When you hug a woman, i promise you she’s doing mental math. Is this grooming behavior? Why isn’t he shaking my hand? Is he going to expect hugs when we’re on that business trip together later? After we have dinner on said business trip? Maybe you’ll never even think that way. But we do. Because that’s how it starts. Pretended innocent touching. Please respect all the metoo crap we’ve had to put up with, and do not ever hug us. No no no no no.

        5. Lena Clare

          Yes, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head! Women are seen as safe because they’re not much of a ‘threat’ in the world of work.
          A handshake treats men as their equals, and women as their inferiors.

          Also, very cool username :D

        6. Gymmie

          We frequently hug brokers we haven’t seen in a while (like a year) that we have good relationships with – and women will hug women, and men will hug women, but men shake hands with men. Hum, never thought of this before. (although I always hate the hugs from brokers I actively dislike…like you are so mean to me on the phone, and now you are hugging lol)

          1. Gymmie

            updated to add that I do see men and men do handshake/side hug pat on back thing. So maybe they WOULD hug if it wasn’t seen weird for men to do so in our culture….sorry, brain turning.

              1. Slink

                Yeah. As a woman who’s been sexually harassed by quite a few creepy guys in my male dominated field, I can tell you, that even if you’re the nicest man ever, and have never once thought of harassing a woman, choosing to hug her (and therefore putting her in the awkward position of letting you touch her body like that OR backing away and putting out her hand, which I choose to do) is bad. You make her do unnecessary mental math. Why is this guy hugging me? Is he grooming me for something later? Is this the first overture for something else? Or is he harassing some other woman and hugging me is his way of pretending ‘no really it’s all women I hug’. You may not mean it ill, but i’ve Had too many coworkers and bosses cop a feel or do other bad things, that all started with the innocent hug in front of others. No no no no no….

        7. Bagpuss

          I finf any hugging in a professional envioronment quite bizarre. Fortuntely it doesn’t happen much ( Maybe we English really are more reserved!) but when it’s loomed I tend to step back and stick out a hind for a handshake, which usually works to deflect the hug.
          But hugging women and not men does add a whole new level of ‘Ew’

      2. AcademiaNut

        Whatever the reasoning, the method you use to greet one gender in a business context should be used for everyone. If you shake hands with men, you shake hands with women. If you hug women, you hug men. If you don’t want to shake hands with women, no matter what the reason, you don’t shake hands with the men either.

        1. TechWorker

          With the additional note that ‘wanting to hug’ anyone doesn’t necessarily mean they’re comfortable hugging you back!

      3. Emi.

        Not as bad as a hug, but I recently tried to shake a man’s hand and he turned mine over, palm down, and just sort of held onto it for the length of a handshake, like a sort of low-key “milady” type thing.

      4. Win

        In the south that hug is more often initiated by women. I have had more awkward encounters because I tried to shake, while she tried to hug, than the reverse.

        Come down to Georgia if you don’t believe me. More hugs than shakes for sure. Could be seen as rude to try to shake a woman’s hand. Or assume you were from the north at least.

        1. Working with professionals

          I can second this. I get the one-armed side to side hug from the males in my GA workplace and trying to turn it down is seen as impolite and rude. Sometimes they will even ask if I am upset with them or having a bad day. Coming from a place where hugging wasn’t the thing to do, it has taken quite some time to get used to it.

      5. OP #1

        I’m OP #1. Just to clarify, it’s not a religious thing. I think he might have started doing this to avoid the hug? I think some of my female co-workers were hugging him initially and he somehow landed on the fist bump as a female-appropriate alternative.

          1. OP #1

            I’ve actually forced the handshake a few times, and he’ll do it when forced to, but we’re always back to the fist bump next time. I think a conversation is probably the only option that could change it permanently.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Interesting. I thought there was a good chance it would turn out to be religious.

          In that case, another option is to just force the handshake like you did that one previous time. (I didn’t want to tell you to do that if it was religious, but knowing that it’s not, that’s a fine option.)

        2. Anax

          Aha. This is one where I would definitely talk to him explicitly – a more appropriate response would be to shake everyone’s hands (if he wants to shake hands), and if someone goes in for the hug, step back and say ‘sorry, I’m not a big hugger,’ or something like that.

          I’m not sure if this applies, but some folks – especially non-neurotypical kids – are actually socialized to use fistbumps as an explicit alternative to hugs. That works great for a four-year-old, but an adult in the office needs to recalibrate their social responses.

          (Googling ‘bodily autonomy fistbump’ will get you a lot of results.)

          I was also wondering if it might be a scent thing. Women are more likely to wear perfume or scented lotion, and if he’s very sensitive to those substances – because of allergies or just really not liking the smell – he might be limiting contact for that reason. Even if folks in your office *don’t* really use scents, he might have picked up on that elsewhere and brought the habit in.

      6. Anne (with an “e”)

        There is a very old Southern tradition that a man should never ever, absolutely never, shake a woman’s hand unles **she** offers her hand first. Personally, I don’t know if Southern mothers are still teaching this to their sons, but it was definitely a “thing” in my mother’s generation— and she passed it on her daughters. I believe (obviously I’m not positive) that most of the men in my age group (mid-fifties) and from my part of the country have at least heard of this. (My mom would be in her mid-eighties, if she were living.) I was brought up with this. My sister who is younger than I takes this very seriously. She is highly insulted if a man offers his hand first. She believes that he is being too forward and that he has zero manners or upbringing. I have tried to point out that maybe these men who offer their hands just haven’t heard of this Southern rule. However, my sister doesn’t listen to me. Oh—- she is a designer who works for a museum.

        1. Clisby

          This is not just a Southern tradition – it is traditional American etiquette. I doubt many people follow this any more, although as recently as 2000, GQ apparently thought it applied even in business. Business and social etiquette are not the same.

    2. mark132

      The hug thing I don’t get. The last time I hugged a coworker was after his wife’s funeral.

      1. Not Australian

        At my mother’s funeral the *undertaker* hugged me. I know he thought he was being nice, but I was horrified.

        1. doreen

          It’s a cultural thing- and I don’t mean an individual’s culture, I mean the culture of that particular workplace. There are actually unwritten rules at my job.
          1) You don’t hug everybody. You only hug people you’ve known for a long time , although you don’t necessarily have to be particularly close to them.
          2) You don’t hug people in your chain-of-command – IOW , I don’t hug my boss or my grandboss or the people I supervise or the people they supervise. Hugs can happen when one person is fairly high on the chain and there is a particularly close relationship – for example , someone in upper management might hug his or her former partner from 20 years ago.
          3) You don’t hug people you see regularly. Not people you see every day, not people you meet with every month. Only people you rarely see.

          1. Jadelyn

            It can also be regional culture. In the Bay Area, it’s pretty huggy and a hug works as a standard greeting pretty much anytime after the first time you meet someone, but I’ve lived in other places where you don’t hug anyone except your family and close friends. So that can also inform the organizational culture re hugging.

            1. curly sue

              Most definitely. Montreal was very huggy and two-cheek-kiss on every meeting after the first one, but here in Nova Scotia that would be akin to bodily assault except between very close friends and family.

              On the other hand, one of my committee members (Ph.D) is Québécois and he hugs and two-kisses all the women in the room (myself, my supervisor, and a female committee member) hello and goodbye at every meeting. I associate it very strongly with his French-ness and it never occurred to me to be skeeved out or feel patronized by it.

      2. Asenath

        I’m not a hugger. I did become a bit more comfortable with it after spending a few years involved with a group in which hugging was practically the norm (for almost everyone regardless of gender) so I became a bit accustomed to it and also thoroughly aware that there are a lot of people for whom a hug is more or less the same as a handshake for me, minus the chances of some enthusiastic person squeezing the bones of my hands painfully together. Now that I haven’t been with that group for some time, I almost never get hugged by strangers and acquaintances – and never at work. That would be weird. Fist bumping would be almost more weird, for me, anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever fist-bumped anyone.

        1. Anax

          I actually fistbump pretty regularly in social situations – I have PTSD and autism, and there are only a handful of people I’m comfortable touching. Physical contact wigs me out, to the point where I may have a panic attack or go nonverbal for a while. Fistbumps are *brief*, and that helps.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I’ve definitely seen the “handshakes for men, hugs for women” culture. When I’ve raised it as an issue, the men who do it are always shocked that this is not an appropriate way to interact with coworkers. It’s astounding. I’ve also gotten more than one defensive rant about why hugging women is a sign of respect and protection.

      But my favorite is definitely men who shake all other men’s hands and then ignore me entirely. I can’t even count how many times this occurs. My favorite was a guy who assumed I was a “nameless admin” and was incredibly rude to me while chatting up my interns, all of whom were white men. It was fun to watch his jaw drop when we all sat down and he found out that I was opposing counsel.

      1. RUKiddingMe

        “Protection?” This just makes me ragey. Just omfg!!! Why do they think they need to “protect” anyone?! Oh wait, protecting *women* not other males…

        I am sooo sick of white knighting in general but it is especially inappropriate at work. “Protecting” a woman who is seen first and foremost as female(!!!) not a competent professional.

        /rant

        1. SarahKay

          Oh, good, not just me feeling ragey when I got to “protection”! I could practically feel my blood pressure climbing when I read that.

          1. Jadelyn

            I literally felt my pupils dilate and I almost snarled out loud. “Protection”??? If you think I need “protection” because of my (perceived) gender, you don’t respect me as an equal and you therefore cannot treat me as a respected professional on your level.

      2. A.N. O'Nyme

        … Protection? Unless someone is trying to murder you what do you need to be protected against with a hug?!
        Lol at the anekdote, by the way.

      3. Myrin

        I sincerely hope the “nameless admin” isn’t an actual quote! Ew.
        (What a satisfying ending to that little story, though.)

      4. Ms. Taylor Sailor

        I’m supremely concerned that anyone is “shocked” that people aren’t fans of an intimate, physical gesture in a professional setting.

        Granted, I’m all for hugging as a greeting with men in non-professional settings (to an extent, but I’d never side-eye someone if I know it’s they’re default greeting), but…what?

        And gross. I’m glad he got at least a sliver of humble pie.

      5. Rusty Shackelford

        I’ve also gotten more than one defensive rant about why hugging women is a sign of respect and protection.

        “Ironically, every time you hug me, I can’t help but thinking that I’m in the perfect position to stab you in the back.”

        1. Iris Eyes

          Which is probably one reason that the cultural relic has stuck around. Handshake with a man cuz there’s always a chance he might pull a knife (or conversely hug men so you can check them for hidden weapons.) Women not seen as likely to knife you.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            Do we need to start knifing more forced-huggers in the back so we’ll lose this unfair reputation?

      6. Reba

        I bet that was satisfying!

        Once I and another female colleague very faux-seriously demonstrated to a man that women can shake hands–with each other, with men, whoever! It’s wild! He was a good sport and at least somewhat changed his ways.

      7. Observer

        That story must have been annoying as all get out. But I’m also betting that you found a way to use his stupidity against him.

      8. Win

        I live within this culture, and after starting to read this blog a year or so ago I have started initiating handshakes with more women vs the hug.

        All it has done for me is created awkward interactions with women who are used to hugging, and wondering why I am trying to shake their hand. They seem put off, and then we spend a second or two figuring out which we are going to do.

        All that to say, there are different cultures within the US, and obviously outside, that are different but not necessarily wrong.

        1. D'Arcy

          Cultures or subcultures that draw sexist distinctions against women *are* necessarily wrong..

      9. BelleMorte

        I find it interesting how many men are actually visibly offended and taken-aback by the fact I have a really strong handshake (I’m a competitive lifter). They visibly recoil at the very thought that I could be stronger than them. It’s bizarre.

        Often those are the types that would do a Trump-esque power move where they try to control the handshake by jerking your hand in, it’s bad enough when another man doesn’t budge, but when a woman can resist that it’s really humiliating for them.

    4. Batgirl

      The ‘hugs for women’ is an old fashioned social thing where I was raised. So at parties, for farewells and introductions men + women or women + women would give a one hand shouder hug and a cheek kiss. Men wouldn’t hug but would shake each other’s hands, although nowadays they tend to morph a handshake into a hug.
      It’s not considered appropriate for work!

    5. Ms. Taylor Sailor

      I try very hard to never assume anything nefarious, but hugging?! It’s still awful and sexist if it’s being done only to women, but I can at least understand the motive to go for the fist-bump and I’m, in general, all for erring on the side of LESS physical contact.

      But HUGGING?! Especially subordinates who aren’t going to be comfortable standing up for themselves?! Even if it’s A Thing, I would have serious reservations of what the purpose of that is (and at that frequency no less) and have a hard time assuming anything innocent.

    6. Observer

      I was thinking much the same thing about the handshake vs fist bump.

      But guys going in for a hug?! That’s bad enough when they hug everyone (please, just stop!). But just women? Have these people learned NOTHING?!

        1. pleaset

          Yeah. I hate hugging, but it’s common in so many many places but in the US and around the world. Creepy dudes hugging women is gross. But “professional” hugs at work at appropriate times – seeing a colleague who’s been away or come from afar, or at the end of a long training or very important event, etc – it’s just part of work as handshaking is too.

        2. Justme, The OG

          My advisor is a hugger (she’s Southern). I am generally not. But I really like her, so it’s fine.

        3. Arts Akimbo

          Um, ew. I have lived in the southeastern US all my life, and count me as one who still thinks it’s gross and sexist for men to hug women but shake hands with other men. Being in the South doesn’t mean we don’t get to have our own opinions about personal space and who touches our bodies.

        4. Clisby

          Not in a business setting. Rather, if it occurs in a business setting it’s not because people are southern; it’s because they’re behaving inappropriately.

    7. Batman

      oh gosh, it annoys me so much when men shake hands with other men, but then hug the women. It’s never happened to me in a work context though, thankfully, just socially. At work it would be awful.

    8. ShortT

      That’s the case in my (Jewish) religious circles. Those who follow those guidelines (shmirat negiah) don’t touch members of the opposite gender at all.

      A friend’s husband is a professor at a local university. At work, he doesn’t shake hands with or fist bump ANYONE. Ditto for having meals alone with a colleague. He doesn’t want to have anyone consider that he may think more or less of someone’s academic or professional ability on any basis other than merit. He also doesn’t want to place anyone into a position where someone’s gender grants one benefit.

  4. Pam

    In my office’s recent interviews, we received 71 qualified application packets. I don’t know how many more were sent in. We reviewed all those applications, choosing about 20 to phone screen, with the goal of interviewing 5 candidates

    1. Just Employed Here

      Phone screening 20 people already takes a lot of time, energy, and focus… Ask me how I know.

      1. Jadelyn

        Seriously – we ask our hiring managers to winnow their pool down to 10 or less for phone screenings. (At our place, the manager picks their preferred candidates, the recruiting team in HR does phone screens and provides recommendations, then the manager decides who to interview and does the actual interviewing.) Even that is a lot, since each phone screen takes anywhere from 10-30 minutes depending on the position and the candidate.

    2. Asenath

      We get slightly more than 71 applications each year. We interview about half. And it’s not because most of the other half are poor candidates – there are actually very few whose applications raise red flags. It takes a long time to have each application reviewed properly, and even then, the difference between some of those interviewed and some of those not interviewed is extremely small. That’s what happens if you are applying for a very competitive position and a great many of the applicants are as good as or better than you. You might not get an interview simply because the number of excellent candidates is larger than can be interviewed.

    3. PB

      Yes, this. As a job applicant, it’s easy to imagine a hiring manager poring over your individual resume and deciding “yes” or “no” based solely on qualifications. In reality, when I’m hiring, I get a stack of resumes, and my job is to pick the 6(-/+) strongest to offer phone screens to.

    4. CupcakeCounter

      Sometimes it comes down to some weird arbitrary reasons for selecting one qualified candidate over another. Location is a big one – you’d probably prioritize someone who lives in the same town as the position over someone who lives 45+ minutes away. Or maybe you realize you have an all male staff so you pick the female candidate over a male candidate in order to have a more diverse staff. If you asked for 5-8 years of experience and have 25 resumes with 5-6 years and 8 resumes with 7-9 years you will probably go with the more experienced candidates.
      I recently applied for a position I thought was a good match – had all of the required qualification and 7 out of the 9 preferred. Not even a phone screen. The people who had 9 out of 9, or 8 out of 9, or something else they didn’t know they wanted but once they saw it realized “that would be a huge asset to this role” got the invites.
      Applicants version of perfect on paper doesn’t always match the employers version.

    5. ConstructionRecruiter

      #5- Corporate Recruiter here. I have to send 70% of my automated rejection emails for salary expectation purposes. We have ranges that you have to select to submit your application (a WHOLE other issue), but I’m not going to waste your time if I know you are 20K above what we can offer.

      1. Legal Beagle

        This seems very self-defeating on the part of the employer. Offer applicants the choice of a range that you know is above what you want to pay, then reject them for choosing it? Just…why?

        1. LiveAndLetDie

          It’s a filtering thing — if someone chooses a range WELL ABOVE the amount that the company is able to offer, it shows you that the candidate will more than likely not be happy with what your company can give.

          At least when I was hiring, we would filter out anyone who asked for more than 20k above the offer range as a rule. If someone’s looking for an 80k/year job and the one you’re offering maxes out at 55k, that person is statistically unlikely to take your job, so going down the interviewing process road with them is a poor time investment.

          1. Transparency

            Why not just post the salary range in the job listing? Folks who see it and think it’s less than what they want won’t bother applying.

          2. General Ginger

            If you just post your actual range in the job listing, people can self-select out before going through your entire application process.

            1. Kat in VA

              Posting salary expectations for candidates to self-select is entirely too logical, and I think companies are still of the mindset that they are somehow “losing” a leg up on the negotiation process. :-/

              When I was looking, I don’t know how many times I’d apply / phone screen / call with HR / interview with team and/or hiring manager, only to discover the job was paying 20-50% below the lowest minimum amount I’d be willing to take.

              And sometimes whoever I was speaking to would appear or sound annoyed, as if I had the gall and the effrontery to consider myself worth more than they were paying.

              Whereas if the salary listing was right in the JOB listing, I wouldn’t waste my time…or theirs.

          3. BelleMorte

            Another vote for just post your range. People who are suggesting 80K might mean that is their max target, or they may take less if the benefits/commute/culture is worth it to them.

            I really hate this stupid lottery that employers play..
            Guess my range!
            Nope too high! They want too much *delete*
            Nope, too low! They obviously aren’t experienced enough *delete*
            Just right! *interview*

            It’s a waste of time and resources for both the recruiter as well as the applicant, and you’ll miss out on people that could be a perfect fit. For example, I went through a multi-interview process only to discover that they are low-balling the market rate by 30k, and my stated lowest range by 25k. That was a huge waste of time for everyone involved.

    6. LiveAndLetDie

      A lot of applicants just don’t realize how much time it takes to go through resumes and do phone screens. Hiring can very easily become a full-time job in itself, and at least when I was a hiring manager I also still had my regular full-time job duties to attend to. Narrowing down to the most promising candidates is an art, I tell you!

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch

      This is spot on.

      Also you can’t ever be certain you’re highly qualified for a job by the posting. It’s usually a vague job description that many people look like they’re able to do well.

      Industry is huge for us. When hiring CSRs I’ll get hundreds of resumes with lots of background. Is your experience in troubleshooting phone issues for the last 10 years? That’s awesome and impressive but we are in manufacturing, I’ll push those to the top.

      This is where it also goes to say why it’s hard to transition from service industry customer service to office related customer service. Unless you’re the only one applying, I’m rarely ever interviewing someone with just that experience.

      There’s so much more in a job than the description. That’s why resumes are poured over so long.

      You also don’t know your counterparts and what we need to balance them out.

    8. Lily in NYC

      We get hundreds of applicants for open positions. Also, I’ve noticed we really put a lot of weight on referrals – we have a small dept of 10 people, and 6 of them were referred by the other dept. members. When one of our “rock stars” tells us they know someone excellent from their former firm, we tend to take them at their word. It bugs me because I think it leads to “group think”, but I understand why my boss swears by it. It makes hiring a lot easier from her end.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl

        Known quantities of any kind can be a huge advantage. This doesn’t mean that they *always* work out, but someone I know and trust vouching for an applicant will typically, at the very least, get that person an interview with me. I can see the other side of the “groupthink” issue (very much so!), but getting a truly candid reference is invaluable.

    9. sometimeswhy

      Yep. We had one a few years ago where out of hundreds of applicants there were ~150 qualified, of those maybe 25 were what I’d consider highly qualified. We interviewed ten.

      My most recent recruitment, I was thankful that the applications were only in the double digits, fewer than 40 were qualified and there were fifteen I considered highly qualified. I interviewed six.

      We’re super niche and fairly small and one of the key things that it sometimes comes down to is complementary skill sets. I don’t need a group of people with identical skills. I need a team that covers everything we do with specializations and overlap within that team.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl

        Very much this! (Except we aren’t super small, but everything else you said – yup!)

  5. Greg NY

    #4: I would do one thing no matter what: not tell her about the meeting as an FYI. It should be put on your schedule (included in a shared schedule if your workplace uses one) but there’s no reason to go out of your way to tell someone about a meeting that doesn’t include them. It would be no different than telling her about a meeting with the CEO or COO. It’s part of your business, your workday, but it doesn’t involve them at all.

    The next part depends on whether she is invited to most meetings, or only a small minority of meetings. If it’s most, then explain to her that you’re going to go out of your way to tell her about every meeting she is welcome at (those you don’t tell her about are those that she specifically shouldn’t be at). You can also tell her that many of them are only for you, not anyone else. If it’s only a minority, then it will be some tough love, but it needs to be explained as well. You can tell her that those in her role, even in the process of being groomed for a promotion, are not welcome at the majority of meetings and you will delineate those she can go to.

    1. Electric Eel

      If you use a shared calendar I would send her a meeting invite when she’s invited, so it’s clear.

      I would also stop asking funders if they want her there too – it’s not necessary to involve them in making internal decisions for you. They just need to know who they’re meeting with.

      1. Willis

        Agreeing with your second paragraph. Unless the question was along the lines of “if you’d like to discuss X topic, then I’ll bring Staff Member, since she’s heading that up,” I’m not sure why the funders would know or have an opinion about whether OPs staff person should be there. That may be why they were non responsive about it.

        Either way, it’s totally normal for a manager to attend some meetings their staff doesn’t. In a lot or cases, it doesn’t seem like it would be a good use of time to always double up anyway. I think Alison’s matter-of-fact approach is the way to go. One other thought – are there any lower level/internal meetings she could attend on her own and then brief you on? Maybe not, but if so that could break up the “we always do all the meetings together” pattern and free up some of your time.

        1. Just Employed Here

          ” I’m not sure why the funders would know or have an opinion about whether OPs staff person should be there. That may be why they were non responsive about it.”

          Yeah, this confused me too.

      2. Legal Beagle

        Yes, all of what Greg said and this, too. I’ve been the junior employee working on a grant-funded project, and I wasn’t invited to meetings with the funder. My boss and my boss’s boss went – I understood the need for that, and it was fine!

        My sense is that LW is trying to protect the employee’s feelings, but the lack of clarity will cause more hurt. It’s not a personal affront to not be included in a meeting; that’s business. Just be upfront and clear with the employee about the expectations. Also, definitely do not ask funders if the employee should be in the meeting! That’s your call, not theirs.

    2. Alli525

      100% agreed – I came to the comments to say exactly this. Unless you need her help to prep documents for a meeting, she doesn’t necessarily need to know there IS a meeting (or at least not when and where it is) until after it’s happened.

    3. Polymer Phil

      Sounds to me like this could be an honest misunderstanding of the FYI’s rather than an attempt to horn in on meetings she isn’t invited to. You can’t assume that people will pick up on subtle hints, and getting FYI’d on a meeting she’s not invited to might not have been a common practice at her last workplace.

      I also suspect her last workplace may have had a different culture with the privacy level of meetings. Maybe your organization’s meetings tend to cover more sensitive topics where it is important to limit access, and her last workplace didn’t deal with this situation much.

    4. Koko

      I have a similar issue with my employee, but it’s almost never that I’m telling her about the meetings. Often it’s because we’re on the same email thread about something that initially involved her, everyone is replying all, and at some point the need to discuss something pops up, and though it’s clear to me that there’s no reason for the meeting to involve her, she’ll reply as if assuming it does.

      For instance, on a recent thread where I’d emailed one of our vendor account reps to request that he register my report for a training seminar and copied her, in his reply he also let me know that he was going on extended leave soon and wanted to introduce me to the rep who would be handling our account going forward. This is a product that at least a dozen people on our team use in some fashion, but I’m the one who formally manage the vendor relationship, i.e. I have a standing check-in with him and all communication with him gets funneled through me – hence why I had emailed him about setting up this training session instead of my report being able to email him directly. I replied back saying something like, “Sure, I’m free for a call ____ and _____” and a few minutes later my report replied saying, “I’m also free then.” To me it was fairly obvious that there was no need for her to meet our account rep’s sub when she has no real relationship with him, and that there isn’t a scenario where she would need to join a call simply because she uses the product without the other dozen people who use the product also needing to join, which is clearly not what was happening since nobody else was on the chain.

      Or on another recent thread, we were discussing with a staffer from another department how we might use a resource they’d purchased. At some point, the other department’s staffer said something like, “Your plan sounds great. I know that Sally [who works in a third department] is really interested in how all the departments are going to be able to use this, so we should add this to the agenda for next week’s meeting with her.” Again seemed obvious to me that this was a higher-level discussion than my junior staffer needed to be concerned with…plus, the person from the other department was clearly talking about a meeting which had already been set up and my report hadn’t been invited. But instead of realizing that the meeting just didn’t involve her even though she happened to be on a thread that referenced the meeting, she chimed in with, “I don’t have that on my calendar – I’ll ask Sally about it.”

      Each time it’s happened I’ve just privately replied to let her know if she shouldn’t be on the call. It’s just a little awkward that it happens with some regularity and I’ve been weighing whether it’s worth having a bigger picture conversation with her, because on a basic level she doesn’t seem to be able to discern the difference in the characteristics of a meeting that needs her input vs one that doesn’t. Which is just really odd to me given how well she understands the scope and limitations of her role in pretty much every other respect – she is proactive about looping me into decisions that need to be my call and I’ve never had an issue with her overstepping her decision-making authority. It’s like she just isn’t making that next logical connection, that there’s no need for her to be in meetings where her role doesn’t have any input. Although now that I type that out, I will acknowledge that I am very much biased in favor of wanting to be in as few meetings as possible and will often decline invitations to meetings where I think they don’t really need me in order to reclaim my time, so maybe someone who doesn’t share that bias isn’t ruthlessly evaluating how badly a meeting really needs them to the same degree that I do without really thinking about it.

        1. SweetTooth

          I mean, as someone earlyish in my career, I spend a lot of time working on things alone at my desk (which in and of itself can get tedious), and then getting brought in to help with a project later on with little context. I would love getting included in more meetings!

      1. valentine

        I’ve been weighing whether it’s worth having a bigger picture conversation with her
        Please do, so she doesn’t come across as out of touch, ignorant, unable to read a room. A simple “Pay no mind to reply-all; I’ll send you an invite/tell you when you’re needed” should make a massive dent.

      2. LawBee

        “I have a standing check-in with him and all communication with him gets funneled through me – hence why I had emailed him about setting up this training session instead of my report being able to email him directly. I replied back saying something like, “Sure, I’m free for a call ____ and _____” and a few minutes later my report replied saying, “I’m also free then.””

        Did you take her off the chain? You can always edit a reply-all to only the people who need to know what you’re emailing.

        1. Koko

          I didn’t in this case because we were scheduling her training and the other call kind of simultaneously, but I’ve done that on a previous thread – she still replied all with her availability, not knowing I had already replied privately with mine.

      3. Perse's Mom

        Does she ONLY do this in the context of email chains she’s been pulled into? Because if so, she may just be working off the idea that surely, if she *wasn’t* intended to be involved further in this, someone would take her off the email chain.

        Reply All is a blight upon the earth is what I’m saying.

        1. Batman

          Yeah, depending on the context, if I were in an email chain and someone mentioned meeting I’d assume that I was supposed to be in that meeting. Otherwise, why would I be receiving that email in the first place?

        2. Koko

          Not quite sure how to answer this one – if you mean to ask whether she does it in person when she overhears things, we are fully remote workers, so pretty much everything happens only in the context of email chains.

  6. Greg NY

    #4: Very simple. Tell her what the reality will be the majority of the time. If she is invited to most meetings, make it clear that you will tell her those she isn’t welcome at (or simply not tell her about those meetings, which she should take as a signal as they are meant for only you and no one else). If, on the other hand, she’s invited only to a minority of meetings, you can tell her that those in her role, even while being groomed for a promotion, are not welcome at most meetings and you will specifically delineate those she can go to.

  7. Snow in the desert

    I can certainly imagine a situation in which the fist-bump could be an attempt to accommodate a religious or cultural issue. (I work in a conservative Islamic country, and handshakes or handclasps between unrelated men and women are generally considered inappropriately “intimate,” so we just kind of nod and do a little bow. But I can also imagine that someone trying to figure out an adaptation for that in a Western environment might settle on a fist-bump.)

    That said, since you are working in — presumably — a Western context, where the cultural norms presume equal treatment, and the situation is making you (with reason) uncomfortable, I’m sure Alison’s script is the best way to go.

    1. 5 Leaf Clover

      Well, and even if the boss is prohibited from shaking women’s hand – he should then not shake anyone’s hand, to avoid treating the genders differently.

  8. Dan

    #5

    I have one of those backgrounds. There just aren’t that many people “in my field’ with backgrounds like mine where there will be a long list of “more qualified” people in front of me. I’ve been in my professional field for ten years now, so have a good idea what the competition looks like.

    While it’s never hard for me to find a job, I certainly don’t get an interview for every job I apply for. I never really know why, either. But at the end of the day, it just doesn’t really matter. People get called/not called for all kinds of different reasons. Your skills may not be as valued by the hiring manager, no matter what the job ad says. They may not want to deal with relo if you’re out of town. The company may not be all that serious about filling the position, or the req went up, but budget issues got in the way. I know in my division, I’ve seen recent reqs go up and then wonder they bothered given the staffing climate. I sorta felt bad for people applying, because the company had no business filling them if they weren’t planning on laying people off. Maybe they think you’re too expensive, and that they can get someone cheaper.

    Bottom line: You won’t really know, and it doesn’t really matter.

    1. Jen S. 2.0

      This. Yes, you were qualified (as far as you know), but all that means is that you were qualified. It doesn’t entitle you to an interview, a call, a close look, front runner status, or whatever.

      Most likely, 75 other people were just as or more qualified, and they narrowed them down through some process **over which you have zero control.** You’ll never really know, and frankly there likely is not much you could have done. Sure, maybe your resume got lost or somebody’s nephew got the job, but either way, it’s out of your hands and always was.

      Sometimes you need to just come up with a reasonable, good-enough, true-enough answer on your own and decide that’s the solution instead of digging to find the REAL truth. My sister and I have a running joke about this after she asked a pregnant woman she did not know when her baby was due, and I admonished her for doing so. Sis: “Well, I was curious.” Me: “But did you NEED to know? You couldn’t just have decided in your head she was probably due in April and moved on with your life?” “Just say April” has become our shorthand for such moments. LW’s April can be that they received a lot of great submissions and couldn’t interview everyone.

      1. ChachkisGalore

        Not exactly work related, but related to your last paragraph – whenever someone “ghosts” me (dating wise or interview wise) I imagine that they fell into a giant hole and they didn’t have their phone on them. They’re all stuck in that same hole and just can’t get out. It’s silly, but it takes the sting out of it for me.

        I’m with Alison, in that you can ask (once!) just don’t expect an answer. Because hey, maybe the person you emailed also fell into that hole with all my exes/past interviewers :-)

      2. Lynn Whitehat

        Yup. I do not get the mindset of “I meet the qualifications” = “they owe me an interview”. What if a hundred applicants meet the qualifications? Or, as Dan says, they lost the budget for the req? Or they realized after posting that what they really need is an X who can Y a bit in a pinch, not a Y who can X a bit in a pinch?

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Same! I’ve had listings that look spot on and no call.

      Sometimes they find someone elsewhere or have a strong reference from a network source as well. Or they have a different vision for the role.

      Years ago I was turned down for an assistant role that was oddly (for our area and industry it’s frankly laughable) interested in someone with all my accounting and business skills along with social media. Tiny little podunk town construction place wanting in depth social media feeds lmfao okay byeeeee.

      1. OP #5

        Thanks so much for all of this feedback, I’ve definitely decided not to email the hiring manager.

        After reading your comments and reflecting on where my feelings were coming from, I realized I am just very disappointed. I really REALLY wanted this job for a whole slew of reasons: it’s located in the city I want to live in (where my boyfriend lives — I currently live 2 hours away), it is a full-time position with benefits (I currently work several part-time jobs with no benefits, but in the same field), but most importantly I was really interested in the work.

        I still feel that I was a good match for the position, but I don’t think that I should take up this person’s time with my own disappointment! I also probably needed to readjust my ego regardless.

        1. Jen S. 2.0

          Frankly, if you applied with an address 2 hours away, there’s your likely answer. 75 people fit the description, and they weeded them out to choose 5 to interview … but they weeded you out for distance.

          1. OP #5

            Does anyone have any suggestions about what to do in this situation? I would really like to get a job in this other city. It is clear on my resume that I currently work 2 hours away. Should I lie and apply with my boyfriend’s address (in the city I’d like to relocate in), and say that I recently left the job(s) that I still work in?

            People are not typically compensated for relocating in the field that I’m in.

            1. Pharmgirl

              There’s no need to lie. Apply with your boyfriend’s address – that might help you get more interviews if they think you’re local. Once they have you on the phone, you can mention that you’re looking to relocate anyways. That’s what I did – apparently they were wary of my making a long commute, but since I had a local address I was able to get an interview. Then I just explained that I was looking to relocate to be near family etc.

            2. Laika

              Are you explicit in your cover letter that you have ties in the city that you want to move to? That can make a difference, in my experience – it’s one thing to say ‘I’m happy to relocate!’ and another to say ‘I’m eager to relocate because my X is in X city!”

            3. Autumnheart

              Essentially, you want to give the strong impression that you plan to be in that city as a resident as of XYZ time. You could reinforce this impression by getting a PO Box in your desired city, and using that as your mailing address.

              I know that this isn’t exactly an easy thing to accomplish, but making definite plans to move would be your best help. You have your job search and hopefully that will pan out, but in the meantime, searching for an apartment and for replacement jobs for the one you currently have, will make you a more attractive candidate. Most companies hesitate to hire someone who *may* move, because in the meantime they’ve got an employee who’s 2 hours away. But they’re a lot more willing to hire someone who *is* moving as of XYZ date, with a local address to back it up.

            4. Rose

              Just change you address or add a line that makes it really obvious you want a job in New Town

          2. Hannah Lee

            I’d suggest using an address in that city on your resume/cover letter. Basically, you’re trying to take risk/uncertainty out of the equation for the employer. If they interview/hire someone who lives somewhere else and has to relocate to take their job, suddenly the location becomes a variable in the recruiting process/onboarding/retention. Even if a candidate isn’t going to ask them to reimburse relocation expenses, what if someone *thinks* they’d love to live in Cincinnati for example, but takes the job and realizes they really DON’T want to live in Cincinnati? Then suddenly, the employer is back to square one.

            Two choices: either
            – you are currently working in XYC town, but are in the process of relocating to ABC town by such and such a date, and provide contact info or
            – give an address in the city the job is located in

            If you’re staying with someone, use their address, otherwise get a PO box in that city.
            If you’re planning on moving there anyway, the PO box is one step in that direction already.

            You want to make it EASY for the hiring manager to choose you. Don’t add in information that makes it easy for them to filter you out.

            Note: if you’re on the fence about moving to the new city, but hey, it’s worth a shot if some company will pay you to move there, that’s a whole different thing. In that case, send a cover letter saying you are open to relocating if the position is right. And apply for other jobs, because unless you are the proverbial needle they’ve been searching the haystack for (or in academia…or maybe I’ve just seen It’s My Turn one to many times) , they aren’t flying you in to interview for a position they are pretty sure you’re not going to take.

  9. Dan

    #2

    So… at my last job, we had an SVP who thought he could hire his buddies when we didn’t have any work for them. And he did. And they didn’t have work. And due to the nature of their positions, they got paid twice the amount us lower level people got paid. One spent her days watching Netflix and You Tube. In her cube. Without any headphones on. Most of us thought the, um, optics of letting the whole office know she didn’t have any work wasn’t really a good look.

    1. L. S. Cooper

      People who watch videos without headphones are the worst sorts of people. It’s so inconsiderate!

    2. That Girl From Quinn's House

      And for #5, this is another reason you might not be getting an interview for jobs you’re well-qualified for.

  10. Electric Eel

    #3 Are you asking your manager to help you prioritise or just assuming you still have to do everything? Talk to your boss!

    1. OP#3

      Hi, thanks for your comment. Fair point – I feel like since I am so new to the role I am not asking for as much support as I would if I were seasoned in the position. I probably am making more assumptions about how much I am obliged to take on than I would otherwise. I appreciate your perspective.

  11. Jenny

    For #5, I wouldn’t do it. I have participated in hirings and have gotten that email and it is almost always an attempt to argue the decision rather than an honest request for feedback. While you may not be intending that, I think the well may be poisoned already. And, as stated above, there may be a huge range of reasons. Double check your proofreading but move on.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      >Double check your proofreading
      Came down to say this! I once received a resume that proudly claimed “poofreading” experience.
      Always run spellcheck, and get a second pair of eyes if at all possible.

      1. PB

        I strongly recommend a second set of eyes. Spellcheck is great, but it’s not going to catch a synonym or the wrong word. I received a cover letter once in which the candidate said that they “poses a great attention to detail.” This candidate didn’t meet minimum qualifications, so they were going to be rejected anyway, but that didn’t help, especially when trying to tell us out about their attention to detail.

        1. PMP

          Haha, same! I thought, how ironic they mentioned spelling errors and there’s an error in their letter! But really, that’s HYPER critical…as someone who has been the hiring manager on multiple occasions, if you’re truly qualified that wouldn’t even matter unless there were other things that lead me to believe your attention to detail wasn’t great. I think Allison is spot on here, you just never really know what they are looking for, even they don’t always know when that description is written. Hang in there.

      2. alphabet soup

        A second pair of eyes is best, but if not possible (say, in the interest of time), reading your resume or cover letter out loud to yourself is a really great way to catch errors, too.

        1. Former poofreader

          Line-by-line, *from the bottom up*, is also a good way to force you to actually read what’s there, rather than what you expect.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood

      Also look for Alison’s posts about resumes….there’s one specific to when you don’t get interviews.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I’ll be honest, when someone reaches out after not getting an interview or a job offer, I never respond and it leaves an after taste in my mouth. In my earlier years I was eager to help everyone and responded kindly, you’re right that most were trying to argue with me. I’m over it.

      Yes it stinks but bad apples do taint the nice things for others.

      1. Cottonwood

        So glad someone said this. I think it’s clueless of the applicant to hope a hiring manager who wouldn’t even give them a phone interview wants/has the time to be contacted to explain why. The taste in my mouth it leaves is neediness. Ick.

        Example. My company accepts resumes year-round and staffs up every spring, and often we’ll call strong candidates from the prior year who we just couldn’t make an offer to and ask if they want to be reconsidered. In deciding who we contact, their professional judgment and pushiness count—if an applicant called and emailed me monthly to “check the status” of their application when I’ve said repeatedly “I’ll reach out when we’re next interviewing,” or worse, kept trying to persuade us to interview them during our slow season, (yes, they are trying to argue) they’re definitely not getting a call no matter how strong their resume. If you struggle to follow directions, have unreasonable expectations, and/or fail to respect others’ time constraints, you’re not going to be easy to work with. Needy applicants make for needy employees.

    4. Jadelyn

      Yeah – much as I’d like to help, I’ve gotten very wary about engaging further with candidates after we’ve told them thanks but no thanks. I agree that most times it seems to be more about arguing or trying to keep a foot in the door than about actual feedback.

      Also, giving that kind of feedback takes time. If we’ve had a lot of candidates through, I might not even remember you off the top of my head, so I’d need to go back and look up your resume again, then type out the explanation in an email to send you. Plus I’d be agonizing about wording because I don’t want to be unduly cruel, so it’d take even longer. Then, consider that most jobs have dozens of applicants who don’t get interviewed, a lot of hiring managers are hiring for more than one position at a time, and if even 10% of those people request feedback, it can start to be a real time-suck.

  12. Pomona Sprout

    If fist-bumping boss tried that with me, I’d grab his fist and shake it when he stuck it out for a bump. Every. Damned. Time. Until he got the hint. If he looked uncomfortable, I’d just smile sweetly, because *I* would not be the one who just made an ass of myself.

    At least I like to think I’d do that and not chicken out. I hope. It’s definitely fun to imagine anyway!

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney

      Maybe it’s just me but I find the fist bump unprofessional in some work settings. It strikes me as a more buddy/buddy gesture than a formal handshake.

        1. sheworkshardforthemoney

          I did not know that and I’m Black. But I’ve also never seen the movie it references.

    2. CupcakeCounter

      Another perfect use of “The Rock Eyebrow Raise”
      When boss puts out his fist to fist bump, up goes the brow in a WTF way followed by an extended hand for shaking. I swear, the eyebrow thing is a damn near perfect response for about half the letters on this site. There is just something about the expression that comes with that movement that can really make people think about what they just said or did. My husband and FIL can do it and I swear it is their most important management tool. People just start spilling their guts when that brow goes up (including my son…I just whine non-stop about the fact I can’t do it)

      1. Jamie

        My dad had this down and when my eldest son was born his eyebrow cocked in that wth way before he was a year old and it instantly made me re-evaluate what I was doing at the moment.

        My brows don’t intimidate anyone so I had to become and auditor to be scary. :)

        1. Gymmie

          I SO wish I could raise one eyebrow and not the other. It would be useful in so many situations.

          1. Emily, former admin extraordinare

            My sister wanted to as well, so she practiced in front of a mirror for a couple of weeks until she could do it!

            Maybe I need to do the same. . .

            1. Jadelyn

              I had to learn it that way too. But man, it’s useful. Flex like 2 muscles and you convey an entire set of meanings without a single word.

              (I literally had a therapist once tell me “I know I’ve said something that hit too close to home because I see that eyebrow go up.”)

          2. MarfisaTheLibrarian

            I practiced in a mirror, starting by holding one eyebrow down manually while I raised the other. Now I can scare people with my Unimpressed Disapproval Face

          3. Autumnheart

            Yeah, you can strengthen that muscle. Start by holding the other eyebrow down with a finger, and after a while you should be able to feel how to isolate the muscle. It’ll keep getting stronger with practice.

            Stupid human trick: I can raise either eyebrow individually (using the above technique, as a kid). It looks especially hilarious to quickly alternate eyebrows.

      2. Perse's Mom

        My sister has mastered that eyebrow; her kids know they’re in for it.

        I can do it (and I must have learned it from her because our mother doesn’t do it), but I don’t have any kids to use it on and my cat doesn’t seem very intimidated.

    3. Annie Moose

      I get where you’re coming from, but grabbing someone’s hand when they are obviously and visibly not holding it out for you to grab does make you look odd. You may consider that an acceptable trade-off to make your point, but don’t think that other people wouldn’t find it an odd action.

      1. KeepIt

        yeah that was my thought too. Whether it’s because of religious restrictions or just a weird quirk or whatever the reason, grabbing someone’s hand like that would come across as very odd at best and boundary crossing at worse. Passive aggressive actions like this never look good for the person doing them, even if they believe they’re in the “right”

  13. lulabelle

    #5 – This took me so long to understand as a new job seeker. Understanding it doesn’t make it any less rough sometimes and it’s *so* hard not to take it personally (“it’s my application! It’s my work history! It’s me! How can it not be personal?”)…but it really, really is not. It’s just a rough world where there are lots of talented people out there.

    My two favourite pieces of advice to keep in mind when I don’t get an interview for something I thought I would:
    1 – You never know what the universe is saving you from.
    2 – Think of the worst person you ever worked with. They passed an application and interview process somewhere along the line – you will too.

    Good luck out there!

    1. Delta Delta

      Exactly this. I applied for a job that I was absolutely positive I was a shoo-in for. Didn’t get past the phone screen. I was devastated because in my mind I had it totally in the bag. Then I learned who got the job and my first thought was, “oh yeah, she is a way better fit than I would have been.” (Small relevant professional community where people generally all know each other) I’m fine with the fact I didn’t get the job, and I feel silly having let myself get totally blinded by my own qualifications that I didn’t think through the fact someone else was better suited.

    2. Shirley Keeldar

      “You never know what the universe is saving you from” is a great line. I’m totally going apply it to my own life. Thank you!

  14. German Girl

    #1 Yeah, that is super annoying. I have a project lead who will shake everybody’s hands but always women first and then men, no matter what the layout of the room and seating is. I find it really awkward but so far haven’t found a script to address it.

    1. Ms. Taylor Sailor

      That’s so bizarre. Regardless of his reasoning, that just seems incredibly awkward and inefficient.

      All I can really think is that if he’s trying to get around someone awkwardly to shake your or another woman’s hand, you or that person could say “Oh, I’m probably in your way! I assumed you were gonna shake Greg’s hand first!” and that might jolt him to realize how awkward that looks, because normal people would assume he’d go in order.

      If you’re a lot closer to him, but not comfortable calling it out directly, IMMEDIATELY after a meeting where this happens, you could maybe say “Hey John, I think people were a little confused with how you were going around the room. It might be easier if you just shake everyone’s hands in the order they’re sitting in!”

      Sorry if the wording’s not great, but I’d personally err on bringing it up non-adversarially first if you can, like OF COURSE he wouldn’t be ordering handshakes based on gender and just has some awkward tic.

    2. Reba

      I recently had a strange, awkward experience with an elevator. As it was happening I was thinking, why is this so weird, haven’t we all gotten on and off elevators before? Several minutes later it clicked that Monsieur Elevator was “letting” all the women off first, but he was closest to the door. Ugh.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          UGH, does it ever! There’s a strong thread of this running through my current office and it drives me absolutely bonkers.

          1. Gymmie

            My dad does this. He just thinks walking in front of a woman is so rude and always waits for them to go first. He thinks other men not doing this is terrible.

      1. Emi.

        I make a point of holding the door for one of my male colleagues because I can tell it makes him uncomfortable.

      2. Emily K

        My office shares a floor with a South American country’s overseas naval offices. The naval officers are all men and all very committed to formalized chivalry, and they will always let women on and off the elevators first.

        The only thing that really tripped me up when I first started was not knowing whether I was supposed to hesitate and wait for them to motion me on/off (even though I knew by that point that they were always going to do so) and then say thank you, which is my instinct as an American, but I suspected that in their culture it was more expected that I would just walk on and take for granted that of course I should go first and there’s no need to thank anyone. I ended up asking around with a few people I knew from that country who all agreed that I should just take for granted that I should go first and that I didn’t need to expend energy demurring and thanking, which was a relief.

      3. RegBarclay

        Ooh I hate that. And since only about half the men in the office do this I have to either wait and see if they’re trying to let me off first (even though I’m in the back), therefore holding things up, or charge ahead and cut off some guy who DOESN’T do this and look like a boor. Like I’m not awkward enough already.

      4. Batman

        Reb-OMG, a man at a former workplace used to do this all. the. time. It was so annoying, especially if I was standing right behind him.

      5. Indigo a la mode

        I went on my first cruise this week and was shocked when, during the safety briefing, they reviewed lifeboat procedures and included the line “women and children first.” I understand getting kids off the sinking ship first, but I’m amazed that it’s still completely serious maritime procedure that women precede men.

        Sure, we could bicker about the ability to fit extra women in because they’re smaller, or men’s higher likelihood of surviving while swimming for a longer time, but all the same it feels antiquated.

  15. pleaset

    “I felt like I was much more qualified than many other candidates would be, and qualified for a first round interview at least.”

    LW5 – I’m curious how you think you know this?

  16. ScaredyCat(RO)

    #1 Ooooh yes: the handshake vs awkward hello happens all the time in my industry (IT) here. The first time I noticed this, it also struck me as odd. At the time, I was part of a large-ish team where I was the only woman. So seeing the guys do the daily rounds shaking hands, and then just awkwardly say bye to me, was somewhat hilarious.

    Is it possible that your boss is coming from a different culture, where shaking hands with men is a sign of camaraderie? In contrast, shaking hands with women comes off as a much more formal greeting. So in his mind he may actually be trying to be inclusive with you as well.

    I can appreciate that things like these can be interpreted very differently across different cultures. So if you feel really strongly about this, then I would try a softer phrasing compared to Alison’s. Something along the lines of “I appreciate your effort, but this actually comes across as rather sexist in the US”.

    Personally, I would let this go as one of those funny and awkward things that stem from a good place, and don’t ultimately influence the overall working atmosphere. But then my cultural background is different from yours. :)

    1. Susie Q

      I don’t think this stems from a good place. This stems from a place where women are treated differently from men. And in the workplace, that’s unacceptable.

  17. Alianora

    I have to be honest, I wouldn’t really feel comfortable using this language suggested in number 1: “So going forward, if hand-shaking is happening, can I ask that you not distinguish by gender?” It’s a reasonable thing to ask, but it just sounds like I’m his manager rather than the other way around.

    1. Bree

      Yeah, I would start with a joking “Can I get a handshake, too?” and see if that works first.

      1. OP #1

        I’ve tried it, and can get a handshake that time, but we’re back to the fist bump next time. Probably needs a conversation to have a lasting change in behavior.

        1. MJ

          Hold your hand out flat and exclaim: “Paper. I win!”
          Every.time.
          Okay, shout “scissors” occasionally. :D

      1. Alianora

        Sure. I just don’t think a lot of people could pull off this particular script, mainly because of the phrase “going forward.” I know I couldn’t without sounding like I was reprimanding him, which isn’t the tone I want to take with a superior even if I am managing up.

        I’d feel more comfortable saying something like, “When I’m at work, I’d rather not be treated differently because of my gender. Can we stick with handshakes instead?”

        1. Alianora

          Oh, I also meant to say that I like Bree’s approach too, and I would only escalate to having the conversation above if I had tried that and it didn’t work.

    2. Ms. Taylor Sailor

      I don’t think the language is bad as long as the LW has a decent relationship with the boss, but I was a little surprised Alison didn’t caveat it with anything along the lines of “depending on your relationship” or warning the LW that the boss might not take it well. No question that it SHOULD be said, but that doesn’t mean boss will react rightly or fairly through no fault of LW.

    3. Win

      I agree. What happens if you go in for a handshake instead of the fistbump? Sometimes you can “override” the other person by outlasting them, or intentionally looking them in the eye instead of at their hand and acting like you don’t notice the fist bump. I would love to know what the outcome would be.

      I live in the south, and am a man, and routinely get in this mix around the office between a handshake vs hug. Many women in the south apparently don’t shake hands much with men, and it gets REAL awkward when I have my hand out for a shake and end up in an embrace with my awkward arm in-between us. Last thing I want to do is assume a hug and get presented a handshake… but the reverse happens fairly often.

      Never thought to try the fist bump… doesn’t seem like a good alternative.

  18. 8DaysAWeek

    #5: This is so frustrating when you feel your resume and skills are on point.
    There is a good chance the hiring manager never even saw your resume and if you email him/her they may not even know what you are talking about. Where I work (large company) resumes are submitted electronically through a system and our HR actually weeds through them before passing on what they think are the best ones to the hiring manager. And like Alison said, if 30 really good ones were submitted, HR may have only sent the hiring manager 10 of them for consideration. And like you said, maybe 5 of them had some skill that just bumped them sightly ahead of you. That has happened to me twice!! But it was for an internal position so the hiring manager was able to tell me that directly since we were already co-workers.

    I wouldn’t recommend emailing the hiring manager. We have had that happen in my department and my boss is very put off by that. If you are concerned you may have a mistake in your cover letter/resume, I would suggest having a few friends look it over to double check.

  19. Amethystmoon

    #2 — be careful, because depending on what your company’s computer use/media policy is, they may be able to fire you for doing that. I’ve worked at many places which even ban the use of Facebook while in the building — at lunch. I’m not sure how they would know who’s on it on their phones these days, but in the old days before smart phones, most companies did block external websites. My company’s updated social media policy is that we’re not supposed to be on it while working if our job doesn’t have anything to do with it. I do know of one person who got fired for Facebooking while at work. I would only ever listen to music on my ipod (or a podcast), as that is allowed still.

    That having been said, it does drive me up the wall that companies make all these policies banning social media/personal website use, etc., but then when workers have excesssive downtime, what are we supposed to do? Stare at our computer screens because that’s the only way we can avoid getting into trouble? Realistically, people are going to go on their cell phones when they have lots of down time these days.

    1. pleaset

      “in the old days before smart phones, most companies did block external websites.”
      Most? That’s interesting.

    2. LawP

      One of the underlings in another department was caught watching Netflix on their phone and the supervisor freaked out and now no one is allowed to have headphones on in that department. I don’t agree with that outcome (was their work okay? Yes? okay, clearly it wasn’t distracting them) but it was a big kerfuffle.

  20. Amethystmoon

    Sorry, that should be excessive. I clearly have not yet had excessive caffeine this morning.

  21. Guy Incognito

    I’m sorry, but LW 3 sets off a lot of what makes me angry about work in general these days, and advice columns in general lately. LW3: Did you read back on your letter and really believe that this was a letter that needed to be sent in?

    I’m sure you’re concerned, but:
    1. As Allison says, having an unlimited leave policy, but being shamed for taking it is poor form. For anyone. I can still remember getting a week off to help with charity work, and a colleague coming into my office to be angry with me that I was taking a week off. I had the leave. I was not asking for additional time. i wasn’t taking it during a busy week. He just thought it was inappropriate to take a whole week off all at once. It damaged our working relationship, and quite frankly, made me question why I wanted to work there.

    2. You said your boss is helping you with your additional tasks. What’s the issue? You needed help, you’re getting it, and doing so without taking a co-worker away from their dying parent. AND you see that your agency is going to be sympathetic inf you fall into a same situation. AND your first performance review went well as you’re meeting all expectations. (instead of “excelling?” What? So?) What’s the major problem here?

    3. You said that “in the two months you’re in the office…” So, you don’t know much of the history here. Perhaps Fergus stepped up at some point in a similar situation. you don’t know that. You know that your co-worker (that you mention age? Again, what does that have to do with anything. if a 20 year old suddenly had a sick 40 year old family member, would that change anything?

    Look, extra work sucks. A dying parent sucks a lot more. It’s going to be rough. But hey, at the end of it you have your job. Fergus loses a parent. I’d take swamped over that any day of the week.

      1. Washi

        Yeah, I agree. I think what’s probably happening is that the company is making it seem like it’s Fergus helping or no one helps, so a little bit of the OP’s frustration is misdirected at Fergus when it should be directed at the company for not staffing the project better. I think that’s pretty natural – I’m covering for a coworker on maternity leave, and on stressful days even I am occasionally like “ughh when is Fergusina going to get back” even though I think maternity leave is great, do not actually begrudge her the time, and plan to take it myself at some point.

        1. valentine

          A simple “You have a manager problem, not a Fergus problem” would have been better.

          We have the gross tradition of workers finding their own coverage and many comedy routines and sitcoms that bang on about your absent coworker, but I don’t recall any that show that’s just pitting workers against each other so management can be derelict in their duties. It’s understandable that OP3 is stuck on “Fergus isn’t here, so I have to do 200% work” and assumes his manager is on the same page, while maybe his manager thinks OP3 is doing a reasonable amount of the work or of Fergus’s work and asking her for help with anything more.

          1. A Girl Named Violet

            Agree with you 100% Valentine. I wrote a few comments and let my emotions get the better of me (as I have seen it negatively affect people), but its not a Fergus problem, its a manager problem.

        2. Not One of the Bronte Sisters

          Washi, I agree 100% with you. But it’s possible that, maternity leave being what it is, your company had some time to plan for Fergusina’s leave, transition her projects, etc. I think this is not the case with Fergus. In OP’s place, I would probably stress that I am new and do not want things to fall through the cracks, and ask if some more support would be possible. In a number of letters to AAM I think we’ve seen that some companies grant people a lot of leave for a variety of circumstances. That’s great, but what they need to improve their performance on is figuring out how to deal with that person’s absence without unduly burdening other employees. It really is a management issue.

        3. OP#3

          OP #3 here – thanks for your perspective! I think you’re totally right – as it happens, my manager is nearly as new as I am, so I think we’re both just floundering a bit without having Fergus there. And since I’m not established in the role, I haven’t felt comfortable asserting myself re: insisting on more institutional support. I’m absolutely pro having generous and humane leave policies, but I’ve never been on the other side of the situation before, so it’s a new and (hopefully) uncommon predicament for me!

      2. A Girl Named Violet

        I did. The letter made me angry as well. While the rest of the letter does show some sympathy, LW is clearly directing their frustration at Fergus.

        1. Ms. Taylor Sailor

          “LW is clearly directing their frustration at Fergus.”

          What specifically did LW say that gave you that impression? Admittedly, I originally expected LW was going to pile on Fergus a bit based on the title of the letter, but LW seemed to be expressing frustration towards the situation as a result of Fergus not being present, but not in a way that holds him responsible. LW does say:

          “I’m trying to balance my compassion for Fergus (knowing that I, too, would ideally want to spend as much time as possible with my parent) with my own feelings of being swamped every day at work and not knowing when support may come.”

          No part of the letter implies that LW is holding Fergus responsible for their feelings and just refers to support very generally. Had LW said “not knowing when Fergus is coming back,” then I’d agree.

          1. A Girl Named Violet

            You’re right, I was referencing the beginning the letter than the rest of it. Was going moreso off the title of the header, but Alison has since corrected. Re-read it in a different frame of mind and do see that it wasn’t as -directed towards Fergus- as I thought it was.

            1. Ms. Taylor Sailor

              All good. Like I said before, that was my initial impression as well and I was expecting the worst based on the title too, so I totally see where you got that interpretation. I was just confused based on what the letter ended up being. Glad it was cleared up.

            2. OP#3

              OP #3 here. I definitely am not holding Fergus responsible and tried to reflect that in my letter to Alison! I wrote in hoping to get an objective third-party perspective on how to broach a situation that is understandably devastating for Fergus without pinning the blame on him. But I appreciate your initial perspective – that sort of response is exactly why I felt I couldn’t bring it up at work (hence coming here)

    1. Alexis

      I didn’t take it as shaming in the letter but it did make me a little uneasy that there was no sympathy for someone loosing a parent. I agree with #2, and that extra work sucks but it happens and sometimes in the beginning when its overwhelming it can actually help someone understand the process.

      1. Reba

        There is explicitly stated sympathy for the coworker, and acknowledgement that the LW would likely behave similarly.

        It’s understandable how the LW would be frustrated (even if the “excelling” issue reads a little like “I got a B, woe!”) The writer is overwhelmed and disappointed. It’s good that they wrote in to have those feelings redirected to the company, not the coworker.

        I think we have had similar letters from people feeling resentful of co-workers that call out a lot or whatever, and the answer is the same–this is not a problem with sick people or kids, it’s a staffing/management problem, if they fail to plan for people having lives. It sounds like the LW’s workplace is aware that folks have lives, now LW can be more proactive in getting what they need to do the work!

        1. Alexis

          It’s great that they wrote in about how to handle this, and while I don’t see the sympathy in the letter that you do I do see the acknowledgement that the OP would behave the same. I can understand OP’s frustration but its always going to sound off when your frustration stems from someone else’s loss. I do think its more of a communication issue that OP isn’t letting their boss know how overwhelmed they are, from the letter the boss is willing to step in they just need to know when. OP is new and its going to take more on both ends (op and the boss) for this to work. If OP isn’t communicating with the boss on how overwhelmed they are they cant staff for it and they may not be able to staff for it depending on the role or the finances.

          1. OP#3

            OP #3 here – thanks for your comment. This issue with tone and “sounding off” when talking about this situation with Fergus is exactly why I have felt I can’t bring it up at work. There’s really no way to not come across as a selfish jerk. Trust me when I say that I am beyond sympathetic for Fergus’ situation – and Alison’s (and other commenters’) responses have encouraged me to broach the staffing issue from a more pragmatic angle, as opposed to an emotional/stress-based one.

      2. Mystery Bookworm

        Sympathy is stated explicitly in the letter. I think when reading online we have to remember that we’re not getting things like facial expressions or tone of voice, so sometimes our own perceptions and biaes will more heavily influence how sincere we interpret someone to be. Best to give the benefit of the doubt when possible.

        1. OP#3

          Thank you! I tried to convey my genuine sympathy in my letter to Alison, and I hope that came across to the majority of readers :)

    2. Anonny

      Wow, this is an incredibly harsh response. The LW isn’t shaming Fergus for taking time off and is clearly very aware that how she talks about the situation could reflect poorly on her, since she’s afraid to talk about legitimate work frustrations for fear of people thinking she’s being insensitive.

      And yes, she asked her boss for help, but clearly she needs MORE help and is worried that the boss can’t provide it. She’s not asking for Fergus to come back to work, she’s asking for additional support while Fergus is out- that support may be from her boss, or it may be hiring a temp or getting help from another department, but nowhere in the letter does it say that she wants or expects Fergus to come back to work full-time. And Fergus stepping up at some point in the past has no bearing on the LW needing help from someone now.

      Like you point out, she’s two months into a new job. In some places you’re still in a probationary period at that point, and the difference between being a fine employee and really shining can make a huge difference especially when people are still getting to know you and your work.

      And I would imagine that the comment about Fergus and his mother’s ages was just to provide additional context about the situation. I didn’t read it as a dig about Fergus taking leave, but an elaboration on why her prognosis with the illness isn’t good.

      1. OP#3

        Just want to say thanks for your comment – and yes, the fact that this is during my probationary period is a big concern for me! My heart truly goes out to Fergus in this situation and I don’t fault him at all.

    3. bibliovore

      I don’t see Guy Incognito’s comments exceedingly harsh as I hadn’t looked at the situation through that lease at all.

      “meets expectations” I don’t know anyone in a new job who would “excel” in two months. Post workshop you can identify the areas that you excelled in…flexibility, content management, planning and follow through.

      After rereading, I agree, it is not about the absent co-worker. It is about understanding the the position, expectations, and being brave enough to ask and receive all the answers.
      Write everything that your worried about down and bullet point it by priority.
      Send an email to your supervisor asking for a strategy meeting to plan the tasks and deadlines. Have your new supervisor help prioritize as well as take some of these things off your plate AND
      Act as if Fergus is not coming back in time. Not in a mean way. Just make a plan.
      Do you need temp help for coordinating materials.
      Editing?
      Technology?
      What ever.

      1. Ms. Taylor Sailor

        But I don’t feel like LW is making it specifically about the co-worker to begin with, just that they need help as a result of co-worker being out. Granted, when I read the title, I assumed it was going to involve complaining about the co-worker like it’s his fault he’s out, but I didn’t read that at all and Guy Incognito is reading into something that I don’t see whatsoever.

        1. KP

          In fairness, I too read a lot of OP hostility toward Fergus the first time I read the letter. It’s the huge focus on Fergus’s every movement, having only been in the office 3 days since OP started, having been on vacation then extending leave when his mother was in deterorating health, promising to come in a couple days in April but giving a head’s up he can’t be counted on to be at this thing in May, and that he will ask for bereavement when his mother does die. Sheesh, it took me forever just typing this in. I agree with other posters that something about the way the office is (mis)handling OP’s need for more assistance — OP has only had 3 days with Fergus, OF COURSE she needs more help on this upcoming main event he, a senior worker, coordinates! — is actually encouraging (maybe passively) OP to focus on and be bitter toward Fergus rather than the organization and how to ask for and get the assistance needed.

          1. Ms. Taylor Sailor

            Eh, I’ve reread it and I’m still not OP has “a lot of hostility” (which is pretty extreme) towards Fergus (nor are a lot of others from the looks of it). OP seems to just be outlining how integral Fergus was originally going to be to the project and is showing how little he was present in relation to what they originally expected.

            The details are a bit much, I agree, and probably weren’t necessary.

          2. OP#3

            Hi! A lot of those details were included so that I could give context – they didn’t come from a place of hostility towards Fergus. If anything, I just felt I needed to tell *someone* about my work frustrations, since it’s totally illegitimate to reproach someone for spending time with a family member in this type of situation.

      2. OP#3

        Thanks – I also didn’t see Guy Incognito’s comments as exceedingly harsh. In fact, it’s basically what I expected the response to be, and why I have felt I can’t say anything at work (lest I been seen as selfish for complaining about Fergus’ tragedy, which I am 100% sympathetic about). I agree wholeheartedly that I should be approaching my workload issues from a more strategic mindset – it’s hard to assert yourself in that way when you’re brand new to the job, but it’s clearly the right way to go (and, with perspective, the obvious solution).

    4. Piper

      Wow, I don’t think that this response is fair to LW at all. LW wasn’t ‘shaming’ Fergus for taking leave, he is asking essentially since this is the situation with Fergus how do I broach the subject with my boss about getting additional help who ISN’T Fergus, not how do I get my boss to tell Fergus to suck it up already and get his butt back to work, to heck with his mother.

      Second, I think it’s perfrctly reasonable that the employee wants to be seen as excelling in his role. Some offices actually will hold that against you as we have seen regardless of why it happened (maybe not this place since it seems like a good place but who knows?)

      Also he mentioned age to point out that Fergus mother was elderly, that was the only reason…not for whatever conspiracy theory reason you seem to think it was.

      And, for what it’s worth, while it’s great that the company has this generous leave, if the way that it’s implemented is to leave everyone else in the lurch then, yeah, it’s actually, not so great and I can absolutely see why people would be frustrated to be the ones stuck in the office overwhelmed with work.

      1. Ms. Taylor Sailor

        I’m totally with you on every point.

        The circumstances are very different and this is a much trickier situation, but it’s kind of like the previous letter where the LW had a co-worker with an ADA accommodation where the company basically allowed him to take off however much time he wanted, going as far as forcing LW to cancel her own vacations to cover for him when he would suddenly call out and overloading her with work to the point that she only had one day off in a year and a half, including having to work Saturdays.

        Obviously that situation is much more extreme and it sounds like the LW here has a more reasonable employer and will have a better chance at getting help, but it illustrates that while a company can (and should) have a good leave policy, the solution to someone being out for an extended period can’t be to pile the work all onto one person. If LW ends up not getting the help they need to succeed and is overly swamped, then the responsibility does fall on the supervisor to decide how to proceed. That’s nothing against Fergus whatsoever, it’s just an explanation of how this situation came to be and the impact it has on a co-worker.

      2. Sam.

        I completely agree that this is an unfair take. The OP seems to be sympathetic and doesn’t necessarily begrudge Fergus taking the time, but just because he’s out for a good reason doesn’t mean she doesn’t get to privately feel overwhelmed or like she’s being set up to fail. Starting a new job can be a lot, especially if there’s a significant learning curve and/or you’re used to be a high performer, and I imagine she was expecting to be able to learn from Fergus rather than having the work of two people dumped on her from the beginning. Her frustration is understandable, and it sounds like she’s doing a fair job trying to find the line between “being a team player” with “oh my god I’m drowning here.”

    5. Seifer

      Wow, this is harsh. We’ve seen letters and Alison ran an open thread a little while ago about being the person that’s chronically ill and out on leave all the time. It’s difficult not to feel resentful when your coworker leaves you in the lurch, and personally, I start to worry if it’ll reflect poorly on me as well if I’m not able to get my work done because a crucial person is missing. But LW3 did not say, “ugh, Fergus is the worst right?” she asked how to deal with the situation, and Alison did not focus on Fergus’s situation, but on the work aspect. Learning how to re-frame things so that you’re focused on the work and not on blaming people is a hard thing to do, and not all of us are able to do that. I can’t. I would need scripts like this. Because losing a parent is terrible, and I certainly don’t want to come off as a complaining jerk because I’m trying to do my job and I’m worried that it’s starting to look like I can’t.

    6. gecko

      It sounds like you need a break from work and a break from advice columns.

      This letter writer, to me, sounds sympathetic to Fergus’s plight and also very stressed. They’re not the person who got snotty at your for taking a week off, and they’re not attacking Fergus’s decision to take time off to care for his parent, and they’re not asking Fergus to come back. Just because there’s someone in the world having a worse time than the LW doesn’t mean the LW shouldn’t be stressed, worried, or considering what they can do to manage their work life.

    7. The Phleb

      Didn’t read any of that at all into this letter…don’t agree. Apparently, someone didn’t get enough coffee yet this am.

    8. A Girl Named Violet

      Although the commentators below do not agree with your viewpoint. I am in agreement with you 100%.
      Even though the rest of the letter shows sympathy towards Fergus, the header literally states, “3. My colleague is taking months off while his parent is ill, and I need him at work”. That line itself already sets the mindframe and premise of where the LW is coming from. LW doesn’t need HIM at work, LW needs additional help and support in navigating tasks and responsibilities. And to be frank, its not a colleagues’ absolute responsibility to train a new hire, its a supervisors since they are the ones who are evaluating your work. (granted, it often falls on colleagues because since they are already doing the work, you might as well take advantage and train, but the initial overview should really be done by your supervisor).

        1. OP#3

          Thanks Alison – in your defence, I think your initial wording was from my letter to you. But I think your edit much better reflects the sentiment of the message. I appreciate your reply! x

      1. bibliovore

        yes. this. I started a new job and was supposed to take over for someone who was going on maternity leave. She was supposed to have two months to train me and I actually only had 3 days with her before she was sent home on bedrest. Her supervisor/my supervisor actually had no idea of what she did to plan the conference, sales materials, tracking for marketing etc. I was swamped, anxious, and my supervisor was super stressed that came out as sarcasm and anger so I feared asking any questions. I needed help but had no idea what help I actually needed.
        LW is in exactly that situation.

      2. Myrin

        Alison is the one who writes the headlines (most of the time; I know she’s left the original subject line on standalone letters if she felt they were apt).

    9. Ask a Manager Post author

      Whoa, I think you’re reading things into the letter that aren’t there. The OP explicitly says she finds Fergus’s actions understandable and she has compassion for him, and she’s not asking how to get him back to work — she asked about how she insists on getting additional support while he’s gone, which is a very real problem.

      The commenting rules here ask you to be kind and give people the benefit of the doubt. Please do that.

      1. A Girl Named Violet

        Sorry all. Didn’t mean to pile up on LW, but I do see alot where people direct their frustration to whomever is closest to them instead of addressing their supervisor. I’ve actually seen where people throw each other under the bus for circumstances out of their (the person who is taking leave) control. I’m a BIG advocate for work-life balance and do appreciate companies that do that (my current employer thinks you should dedicate their lives to them). Thanks Allison for changing that (I know sometimes its you who creates the title and sometimes it might be the LW, wasn’t sure in this case).

        Again, didn’t mean to pile up on OP as that is not what your blog is about.

    10. Psyche

      You are complaining that the OP lacks sympathy, but you seem to lack sympathy for the OP and are determined to read the letter in the worst light possible. She is in a tough situation. She just started a new job and feels like she is drowning. Although her boss is providing some help, it isn’t enough. A generous leave policy in really only nice when the employer takes into account the effect it has on other employees and mitigates the impact. That doesn’t mean Fergus is wrong or doesn’t deserve sympathy, but the OP is not wrong to feel overwhelmed and need help.

      And if advice columns make you angry, you could always choose not to read them.

    11. Rumbakalao

      This sounds a lot like you’re projecting based on your experience with taking leave, and I don’t think that’s fair assessment of the LW.

    12. OP#3

      Hi! OP#3 here (a few days late)

      I think some of the posters below have responded on my behalf much better than I could, so I won’t begrudge the point! I appreciate your comments (although I think the facts of your own experience with an unreasonable coworker are quite a bit different than mine with Fergus). I wrote to Alison in need of catharsis and perhaps some validation that it was okay to feel overwhelmed at work whilst simultaneously knowing that the underlying cause for my work stress is 100% legitimate and something I am in no position to complain about whatsoever. It’s been frustrating to be seen as underperforming (by my own standard) when I’m in a probationary period, but if it didn’t come across in my letter, I am 100% sympathetic of his situation. If he feels he needs to be at his mum’s bedside every day from now until Christmas, I get it.

      Going forward, it is helpful to hear the concrete advice to be a bit more proactive in seeking non-Fergus-related solutions to this problem – sometimes you just need a third party to push you toward the obvious, you know?

  22. WellRed

    Good lord, I would hate the constant handshaking with colleagues. It’s so formal to me. But it’s not cool to treat men differently than women.

  23. Coffee with Cream

    #3 did you come in as an equal to Fergus, or as a lower title (sorry I don’t have a better word)?

    If you came lower than Fergus then start asking for help and ask what the expectations are for you for the workshop if Fergus does not return.

    If you came in as an equal then you really only have room to ask for help with the work load if you are the only one getting all of Fergus’s work. If the work is equally split I think you kind of have to chalk it up to learning quickly. A new employee that comes in with the same title as a co-worker with the same title should know the same things, just not the specialties of this particular company/area. These specialties and and questions about how they (this area) does their work are the things you can ask for extra help on.

    1. OP#3

      Hi! Fair point. We are at the same level (pay grade-wise), although my role would normally be slightly different, in that I have more technical/subject matter expertise on a particular area of the program implementation, whereas Fergus’ role is more focused on coordination and administration. So now, I am undertaking that coordination role as well, which is outside my natural wheelhouse.

  24. Ladylike

    OP1 – is there any chance your boss has a crushing handshake and is trying to protect your smaller hand? This was the first thing that came to my mind. My husband is one of those guys who doesn’t know his own strength. I can almost see your boss writing to an advice column and saying, “A woman cried out in pain when I shook her hand – what can I do differently?”

      1. valentine

        Some men have smaller hands and no one should be gender policing anywhere, and especially not at work.

    1. Pilcrow

      It sounds like the boss *has* shaken the OP’s hand before (when she forced the issue). Since the letter didn’t mention falling to the floor in agony, I think it’s safe to assume that it wasn’t an issue of using crushing force.

    2. Traffic_Spiral

      Because what, he’s Lennie from Mice and Men, or some sort of cyborg who hasn’t learned to control his robot arm yet? Because outside of those situations, I’m pretty sure he could just give a handshake like a normal human.

    3. Justme, The OG

      And I’m one of those women who have a crushing handshake, but I’m careful to not squeeze too hard (unless the person has annoyed me).

    4. Mystery Bookworm

      I’ve shaken the hands of many men and have never run across this, so I’m skeptical it’s a common problem. Most people are aware of their own strength and can moderate their handshakes accordingly, so even if this were the case, I would suggest that the burden is on OP’s boss to better manage himself and his grip.

    5. Observer

      Oh come one. “Doesn’t know his own strength” works ONCE and once only! After that you learn to moderate your grip -or you don’t grip at all. It’s not complicated at all.

      1. Win

        I am an admitted over thinker of such things, but I disagree. There is a lot of middle ground between the full grip and the no grip, and each leaves a different impression. Surely you do not like a no grip handshake?

        There is a standard handshake for 99% of men. Full grip.

        No standard for women, some full, some no, some in between. Hard to tell what to take into a handshake sometimes.

        1. fposte

          I don’t really care about handshakes at all, so I’m fine with a no-grip handshake. However, I’ve also been shaking hands for decades with a large variety of people, many of whom are strong and athletic, and I’ve never gotten my hand squashed, so I’m guessing the people I know are moderating their grip. It’s a greeting, not an attempt to disable.

          1. Win

            I am willing to bet you are holding your own to prevent the squash. Try sticking it out there limp and see what happens.

            I am not out to hurt anyone. I can proudly say I have been shaking hands for decades as well, quite experienced. Don’t think I have ever disabled anyone. Can admit to rolling some knuckles after being offered a completely limp hand a few times. Kind of like standing up into a fixed object and smacking your head unexpectedly, or thinking there is one more stair in the staircase. We often don’t realize how much force we put into mundane movements until we meet resistance (or lack of resistance).

            1. fposte

              I do realize that “strong handshake” is a big male culture thing that I have more freedom to ignore than men do :-). But I’ve encountered plenty of limp hands and I just hold them and let them go. Even if it’s for my own protection, I adjust to what I find–people’s rings can be pretty savage.

              1. Win

                Oh gosh… yes the handshake is very important to (most?) men. You don’t want a weak one, and you respect the strong ones.

                I think that is what is the root of the big hands being important thing (more than the alleged correlation thing). Big hands make great handshakes.

                One close colleague of mine has tiny hands. I mean really tiny hands. I feel for this person and the subtle effect it has had on every formal greeting in his life. I envy your freedom from this pressure!

              2. Win

                Oh I apologize in my previous reply I misread your post to say “I did not realize…” and went on to explain it.

                And I fully agree some rings are downright dangerous.

          2. stump

            I’ve gotten crusher handshakes on rare occasion before, but every time I’ve gotten one, it was definitely an intentional act as part of some bizarro dominance display BS from Jerkish People.

            Seriously though, if somebody’s legitimately worried about accidentally breaking somebody’s hand, they can just let the other person take the lead on the gripping and follow what they do.

            1. Win

              Yes there is a small but easily identifiable group of intentional crushers. Would like to know more about their psychology. Would be willing to bet it is a psychopath identifier.

              1. Arts Akimbo

                Agreed! The one oversqueezer I ever had to interact with regularly turned out to be a bully.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          I’m not sure why you think most men have such poor motor control skills that they can’t do something as simple as moderate how strong they’re squeezing.

          1. Win

            I don’t think that. But ask any man if they have accidentally squeezed a woman’s hand too hard, and Ill be they say yes.

            1. Myrin

              How do you (general you, as in, men) know that? Asking earnestly, not in a snarky way.
              I’m a woman with quite a firm handshake (I mean, it’s really just a “normal” handshake to me but with the amount of times I’ve encountered the limp bouquet of shrimp before, I’d guess it’s firm compared to others) and if you asked me, I’d guess that I’ve indeed squeezed some people’s hand too hard for their comfort level before, but I certainly don’t know that. Have you found that women will be vocal about their hands being squeezed too hard?

              1. Win

                When I think I have gone in too hard is more about the difference between the two levels of squeeze than about me squeezing too hard.

                If you have a normal or firm handshake, what you are relying on is the other persons hand to be firm too. If they hand is not firm, and just limp, you can “squeeze” it with a normal amount of pressure and make them uncomfortable. I have had people wince because their knuckes squished together. It isn’t hard to do, and it isn’t because I was squeezing like the hulk, but just because I didn’t expect their hand to be limp.

                When that happens, it is obvious. It shouldn’t have ever happened to you unless you presented a limp hand, or the person shaking your hand was an ass and just went way too hard.

        3. Observer

          I couldn’t care less about how someone does a handshake as long as they don’t hurt someone.

          And that’s the only relevant thing. If you discover that you accidentally gripped too tight and you really can’t tell how hard you’re doing it, you just do NOT DO IT.

      2. Lady Phoenix

        This is the same argument comic fandunb uses as to why Superman/Lois Lane is bad and Superman/Wonder Woman is good: that Superman might break her during sex.

        Like… guiz… by that logic he can’t open a door without breaking the handle. He knows howbto control his strength. He’s an adullt written by adults.

        So all these whiny menbabies who can’t “control themselves” when shaking a hand need to step up already. Geez.

    6. Win

      Handshakes with women are one of those things, at least for me, that I never know how to approach. I don’t avoid them, but I don’t approach them with the kind of confidence I do with a handshake with a man. With a man, I shake very firm and strong and that is the impression that I am trying to make. It is a very rare occasion that receiver is outside the acceptable ratio of firmness.

      With a woman, it is hard to predict the kind of shake you will get in return. Sometimes limp, sometimes strong, sometimes in between. Much higher risk of going too firm, but if you always go in super soft there is the risk of being the limp wristed hand shaker with the firm shaking woman. I feel much less confident I will leave a good impression after a handshake with a woman.

      I feel very confident trying to fist bump every woman would leave a terrible impression. Fist bumping is something I do with my 5 year old….

      who knew it could be so complicated..

      1. Grapey

        I guess a lot of men feel the same way you do. Most handshakes I receive from men are limp. (I’m a woman with a firm handshake.)

        Handshakes with other women are always just right with me.

        1. Win

          What does the limp handshake from a man mean to you? Does it leave any undignified impression?

          I hate leaving one, but would hate it less so if it felt more confident in its impression.

          1. nnn

            I just find it surprising.

            When I was young, people were always hyping up how you won’t get anywhere unless you have good networking skills, which is disheartening to me because my interpersonal skills are terrible. I find interpersonal skills (and by extension networking) very difficult, and when I attempt to implement what I’ve learned (rather than being myself) I come across as phoney.

            However, a standard handshake was very easy for me to learn. It took 10 seconds to learn when I was 13, and I’ve been able to automatically do it flawlessly ever since.

            So when I shake hands with someone with a limp handshake, I’m kind of surprised that the only aspect of this whole thing that I find easy is something they haven’t mastered.

          2. Arts Akimbo

            I understand how it would be different to calibrate firmness if you have a lot of grip strength. I like a firm, solid handshake where the hand is flexed but not squeezed hard at the fingers like a finger-vise, if you take my meaning? It’s how I shake hands, with a microsecond of adjusting for the firmness/squeeze level I meet with from the shake-ee. Because it’s so subjective, I believe we all have to take that instant the hands meet to recalibrate for each other’s grips.

            A limp handshake from anyone makes me feel like they have unexpectedly handed me a dead fish.

          3. Autumnheart

            It means “Here’s a guy who doesn’t know how to shake hands with half of the human race”. Yeah, it’s undignified. C’mon.

            Like, if there are any women in your social circle whom you could ask, see if they’ll practice shaking hands with you for 10 minutes, just so you become more comfortable doing it and it feels more natural to you.

      2. Savannnah

        I’d just say if you are worried about impressions, treating women the same as men will leave a better impression than being worried about the quailtiy of your handshake. Most of us could care less and the difference in actions speaks louder than some inference from a handshake. Unless you are breaking our hand, I’m receiving no new info about you from a handshake.

      3. Rhymes with Mitochondria

        It’s a handshake, not an arm wrestle. Maybe you need to learn how to shake hands all over again. The “shake firm and hard for a good impression” stuff is crap that comes from thinking you have to prove you’re stronger to show dominance. Give up the macho stuff, learn to moderate your grip, stop treating handshakes like a strength competition and you won’t be so boggled by having to deal with people who are (gasp!) women!!!

        1. Win

          I wasn’t aware that a firm handshake is considered crap now.

          I don’t think I will be the one to start the revolution.

      4. RandomU...

        I am a woman and I have experienced the same thing with handshakes, with the added bonus that sometimes when I shake a man’s hand they do that weird bent finger half shake… you know the ‘how do you do’ type handshake that in olden times was followed with a curtsy and a hand kiss. (wow… harder than I thought to describe that!). In fairness there are still a lot of women who do this too.

        Honestly, I’ve learned that as a hand shaking woman, it’s just easier for me to lead the interaction. I can at least head off that half shake, and if I do it right the other person will follow my lead for the ‘normal’ one. Weirdly this has come up in conversations in non work settings and I’ve been told I have a ‘normal’ handshake by men. So I guess I don’t have to be worried about being limp fish :)

        My advice is to hand shake normally and if you get a limp return (blechhh) then back off of your grip. Or if you get offered the fingers then go with that. Other than that I wouldn’t over think it. Even if it’s awkward it’s usually over quickly and easily moved on from.

        1. Win

          As a man… THANK YOU!

          You were given the bent finger half shake because that man was still scarred from recently crushing a limp hand. Or he was just offered the palm down hand hold.

          Take the lead, we appreciate it.

      5. Justme, The OG

        I think if a supervisor tried to fist bump me, I would go all Baymax on them (faux explosion afterwards).

      6. Alianora

        Just hold your hand firm and rigid, but don’t squeeze hard. I feel like a lot of people don’t realize that you don’t actually have to squeeze to give a good handshake.

      7. Washi

        As a woman, I just try to match the grip of the person shaking. If the person hands me a limp hand, I am gentle, and if the person seems to be going in for a vigorous handshake, I’m more firm. Idk how my brain does it, but it seems to assess pretty quickly what’s going on and how to respond accordingly, so it’s not actually that complicated!

        Incidentally, the only person who I ever suspected of deliberately crushing my hand was a woman.

      8. nnn

        I find in life in general, I never know what kind of handshake I’m going to get in return, so I just shake hands with a natural clasp of the hands, and get on with life. There’s no point in trying to match people’s grip because you don’t know how they’re going to grip.

        And I figure people who are going to judge me based on my handshake are going to judge me anyway, so we may as well get on with it.

    7. Alfonzo Mango

      This is a ridiculous comment.

      If he knows his handshakes are excessive then he knows the solution is to loosen up, not just exclude half of a group.

    8. MaureenC

      I don’t know if your husband is in a situation where he needs to shake hands often, but they’ve got grip strength meters for ~$30. Maybe he could experiment to see how his muscles feel different when he’s doing max grip versus less?

    9. Jennifer

      I have found guys like that typically do it to show dominance. They know their own strength.

      I’m sure your husband is the exception :)

    10. L. S. Cooper

      I’m a woman who semi-regularly receives comments on how firm my handshake is. The advice I was given as a child in Cotillion was to squeeze as hard as you would a tube of toothpaste. Anything more than that is excessive, and probably either a show of dominance or a complete lack of self-awareness. Either way, something the man in question needs to resolve, and not blame on those impossibly delicate tiny lady hands.

    11. Ladylike

      Wow, my suggestion elicited a WHOLE lot more strong emotion than I expected! Being a woman who has shaken hands with multiple men over many, many years, I do find that a lot of men are awkward and uncomfortable about shaking hands with women. I get a lot of limp handshakes or handshakes where the man grasps my fingers only, and lifts my hand with my palm facing down, in an old-timey-gentleman-type gesture. I simply meant that I think there are men that don’t know how hard to grasp a woman’s hand, so they opt for other solutions. I really doubt this is an intentional slight because OP is a woman.

      Growing up, my dad taught me that only a firm handshake is respectable, something that really stuck with me. It makes sense to me that guys my age and older may have learned the same principle from their dads, therefore they’re trying to shake hands firmly enough to be respectable but loosely enough not to crush the woman’s fingers…oh, the hand-shaking angst!

      As for my husband…when he massages my shoulders, it feels like he’s trying to grind them into hamburger. And after many years of marriage, he hasn’t learned to loosen his grip. Maybe I should be encouraged that he’s not massaging enough shoulders to become more experienced? :)

    12. Marvel

      What.

      I’m a man and I would be bothered by someone who shakes hard enough to hurt. My hands are… not more resilient than the average woman’s? I don’t think hand resilience is determined by gender??? What is happening.

  25. Seeking Second Childhood

    Hi OP3 —
    I encourage you to think deeply about Alison’s suggestions — and also realize that Fergus may not even be using “the company’s generous leave policy”. If you’re in the US, Fergus’s situation is covered by FMLA laws — he is a primary caregiver for an ill family member.
    Also realize that if he *does* get called in part-time, he may not be all there. I’ll always wish I’d taken more time off when my mom had her stroke. But we were on deadline so I took intermittent leave and worked part time including in the hospital lobby. I made mistakes. I forgot tasks. I missed deadlines. I’d have been better taking those part-time hours to train someone in how to do the tasks for which I have been requesting backup.

    1. fposte

      I agree with your underlying point that it’s good to be aware that FMLA makes a three-month leave possible in many workplaces, so it’s not an irregularity. This may or may not be FMLA, though; if he’s been out for two months already and is anticipated to be out for months more, it sounds like something beyond it. It’s also not clear if he’s primary caretaker–if he’s just taking the time to be with her, that doesn’t meet the standard.

      1. valentine

        Why and how he’s gone doesn’t matter. OP3 can go to their manager with various scenarios and projections, since no one has done that for them, even though OP3 is quite new.

    2. OP#3

      Thank you! I’m actually based in Canada so FMLA doesn’t apply, and I have no idea if he’s the primary caregiver.

      However, I really appreciate your second point, it’s a very important reminder. Even though I have tried to be as understanding toward him as possible, this is something I will keep in mind going forward. Since I don’t know Fergus that well, I probably haven’t been as outwardly open with him about how I am sympathetic of what he’s going through. Thank you :)

  26. Introvert girl

    2. I listen to BBC 4 extra or audiobooks on youtube. It helps me concentrate.

    3. Had this in my team. My previous manager didn’t hire anyone to help us cope with the work when our coworker took a couple of months of. We were drowning in work and I came close to a burnout. Communication is the key, trust me, it’s not worth giving 200% 6 days a week because your manager says they don’t have a budget. The problem is that when you start giving 200%, it will be seen as the new normal and you will be expected to continue that way.

    5. I had the same thing happen to me. If it’s a government position they probably already had someone to fill that position but had to advertise it anyway. It sucks, but sometimes you have to realise that no matter how good you are, not everyone get’s a fair chance.

    1. OP#3

      Thanks for your feedback – I appreciate it! I think you are right and I will be more proactive about broaching this with my manager.

  27. Imaginary Number

    OP #1: I have always been one of the few women in my workplace and there’s so much bad information out there on how men can avoid being accused of sexual harassment: guidance that often leads to gender discrimination. Like never having a one-on-one meeting with a female colleague. Or, in this case, fist-bumping instead of a handshake it avoid too much contact. I had a coworker tell me he didn’t want to ride in a car with me to a work event because he was married and didn’t want anyone to see us and take it the wrong way.

    It’s generally just misguided attempts, rather than deliberate discrimination. Explaining that it makes you feel discriminated against and definitely don’t mind a handshake will usually do the trick.

    1. Dwight

      Yeah, I’d rather get accused of being slightly sexist, and being corrected, than being accused of sexually harassing a coworker through a handshake. The former you can recover from, the latter you cannot.

      1. Win

        Better a handshake than a hug!
        Or a missed fist bump turned boob punch!

        The only way a handshake is going to turn sexual harassment is if you are a serial wrist tickler.

      2. Imaginary Number

        Shaking hands is NOT sexual harassment. Refusing to shake hands with women only IS gender discrimination

          1. Autumnheart

            Yes you do. It’s extremely clear and has been spelled out in great detail any number of times.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            No. It is not okay to say things like that; it makes like of very real sexual harassment issues, and propagates the idea that men can’t possibly understand what women are offended by and/or that women consider innocuous behavior to be harassment.

  28. Mockingjay

    #3: OP, I understand your stress. You’ve started a new job and the coworker who would have assisted you in learning the ropes is unavailable. The upside is that you have a supportive boss who will likely provide the resources you need if you ask.

    However, I can speak for Fergus’s side. I have just been granted a month of FMLA to care for a family member. I can tell you the past two months have been a nightmare at work; having to duck out of meetings to deal with doctor and hospital calls, taking leave to fly to a specialist clinic, and so on. My work product has been distinctly less than stellar. I’m not in a good place to mentor a new employee; indeed, I would ask if there is someone else who can work with you. (I did exactly that; I have a new role which is very fast paced and requires a lot of coordination. I discussed the situation with my boss and he found someone well-suited to take over. Upon my return, I will transition back to my old role, which is a better fit for me.)

    You stated that you want to shine in your role. You don’t need Fergus for that. Work with your boss, lay out a plan for the upcoming event, set goals. Do all the things any good employee normally does to execute work on time, accurately, and so on (insert appropriate metric for your role/industry).

    1. OP#3

      Thanks so much for this – it’s very helpful for me, and it resonates a lot with what I’ve seen Fergus having to deal with when he has been in the office. I’m sorry for what you’re having to go through.

  29. JLB

    #2 In my work situations, watching entertainment-related videos at work would be considered inappropriate and unprofessional for most office jobs. Low music in the background is a different story. That’s a layer of ambiance. But TV shows/video capture attention in a different way requiring our brain to engage on an audio and visual level. You lose context if not paying attention to the video. This would split the focus and reduce productivity for most workers, especially for writing/editing tasks. It might be different if doing a physical, repetitive task requiring little thought (e.g., cleaning, collating papers) or if you merely had to be present, say a front desk person with no other tasks and a non-busy environment. For tasks that engage the brain, there’s been a lot written about the “myth of multi-tasking”. It’s said you don’t actually do two thing at once but actually quickly split back and forth, so spending less cognitive time per task. So, say, for an hour long show – it’s probably not 60% of doing both but maybe 40 minutes your desk work and 20 minutes absorbing the video/TV show. (Or whatever split.) Point is, you doing less work -or doing it more slowly or less efficiently. (Again – talking about tasks that engage the brain and use audio/visual/cognitive skills.)

    1. Rainy days

      Yeah, it’s crazy to me that watching tv while at work is allowed anywhere. I can imagine some jobs where the cognitive demands aren’t that high and you listen to podcasts or audiobooks while working, but almost all jobs require you to look at something with your eyes which seems incompatible with also watching a screen.

      Different from OP’s situation, but there’s a corner store near my house where the cashier watches TV all day because there aren’t many customers. Makes sense, right? Well, I didn’t really appreciate that when I tried to purchase something he actually glared at me when he had to stop watching the TV to ring me up. Now I walk to the Walgreens which is a bit farther away for my small purchases.

      1. LJay

        I don’t think most people “watching” videos are really watching them. They’re listening to the audio while ignoring the screen.

        Yeah, I don’t think it’s okay to watch your phone or tv in positions where people will regularly need to approac you.

        I stopped when I was promoted to management. Because, while I know that I am not really invested in the video, I don’t want anyone to possibly feel awkward about interrupting me. I also don’t wear headphones for that reason, unless I’m doing a mandatory computer based training for the company.

        Same with retail. Unless it’s a really dead shop and they stop the moment someone comes in, even if they’re happy to stop watching, it still complicates the customer interaction. The customer is going to wonder if it’s okay to interrupt you or if they’re going to be mad about it. And the cashier has to mute the video or take off headphones or whatever before starting to ring the person up. It’s just off-putting in a way.

    2. Kate S

      I can’t even imagine listening to podcasts while doing editing work or writing e-mails. I would be extremely skeptical of any employee who told me they were 100% as productive doing this work while also listening to an inflow of information. More and more research is demonstrating how much people suck at this type of multitasking – even as we perceive we excel.

    3. JLB

      I also have a hard time understanding how someone focusing on a mentally-engaged task could even listen to podcasts. For music, it’s just background – soothing or energizing or whatever. But you aren’t really trying to analyze the words. With a podcast or audio of talk show, that’s different. It requires my cognitive ability to absorb what’s being said. I love podcasts while driving. And they work well for the routine parts of the trip – although there are times I’m listening intently and suddenly realize more distance has elapsed than I realized even though my eyes were on the road. But then if I get into rough traffic or tricky directions where I truly need to focus on the the act of driving, I find I’ve missed sections of the podcast and need to re-wind it. And if someone else speaks to me (passenger in the car or phone call), then my attention is completely diverted from the podcast. I might listen to a podcast at work while I take mental break or if I had to do something physical like reorganize a cabinet, but I can’t simultaneously listen to something like that WHILE I’m trying to complete my typical tasks – writing, budgets, responding to email, making calls, planning.

      1. Clisby

        I have a hard time understanding it when the task at hand is verbal. However, I used to do my calculus and linear algebra homework while watching soap operas. I’d even do it during slow times at work when people were talking all around me. There was no overlap between the math and the verbal stuff, so it didn’t seem to matter.

  30. gecko

    For OP2, I can tell you that in my office, I have a few coworkers who do watch video game streams, youtube, etc, regularly. These coworkers are usually ones I don’t respect much for other reasons, and seeing them watch stuff doesn’t really help that situation. I also know for a fact that other coworkers in higher positions really don’t like seeing them watch videos either.

    I wouldn’t do it. I think that it wouldn’t matter to someone who respects you already, but the alternatives are 1) a coworker doesn’t respect your work much and seeing you watch TV makes it that much harder for you to gain respect, and 2) a coworker/higher-up has no idea what your work is like, but seeing you watch TV now just pops a negative point into their opinion about it.

    It gives you less goodwill if you do need to delay something with your work, or get something off your plate.

  31. Alexander Graham Yell

    For OP4, I would try adding both of Alison’s scripts together. “I have a meeting with X at 4, and I’ll fill you in afterwards on anything you need to know.” That way you’re getting ahead of her thinking she’s invited, but giving her relevant information (when she actually needs it – there are probably plenty of meetings she doesn’t need to know about ahead of time).

    1. L. S. Cooper

      This is a really good idea. As I mentioned in my own comment, as a newbie to the world of grown-up jobs, it can be really hard to tell which meetings are vital and which ones aren’t. Establishing clear expectations is a really good way of circumventing it!

  32. EditorExtra

    OP5, it’s “shoo-in,” not “shoe-in,” and usage-wise it usually means someone has a slightly unfair advantage in a competition. Definitely check your resume and cover letter over and get a second pair of eyes to proof it.

    1. Win

      Still learn something new every day.

      I always imagined it “Shoe-in”…. as in … a foot in the door.

      1. pentamom

        It’s shoo-in, as being so eagerly let in that someone is “shooing” you in the door, instead of out.

    2. OP #5

      Thanks! I also thought it referred to a foot in the door… I will certainly never make this mistake again!

  33. F*ck it

    #5

    If those four or five people were just stronger matches for some reason, then you’re getting rejected — and that doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with you as a candidate, just that others were better.

    TFW everyone is always better.

  34. EmilyAnn

    This reminds me of a manager in my old office who tried to fist bump me in greeting. Another co-worker he’d do a little dance to greet her “Go Sansa, Go Sansa” as if we were in a club. We were both black females. I started refusing to fist bump no matter how much he insisted and the more he insisted the more stupid he looked. I was very direct “No I will not fist bump you”. He stopped trying to fist bump me after that. Sansa just looked at him as if he were mentally ill and he stopped that too. It’s so annoying, but what you allow is what will continue is my motto.

    1. Rumbakalao

      I am also a black female and I am cracking up imagining your cringey coworker. Glad he eventually cut it out.

  35. Kit

    OP#3, as someone going through the same thing as Fergus, he probably wouldn’t be much help if he was there. This isn’t a fun vacation, this isn’t “spending time with” someone, this is preparation for the death of your mother. This is DNR’s, this is treatment discussions and balancing the pain (or depending where you live cost) of the treatment vs quality of life, this is awful decisions and heart break. Fergus is about to lose the biggest constant in his life, that has been there since birth. Doesn’t matter if he is in his 50’s, his mom is dying.

    Do what Alison suggests, it is absolutely your company’s responsibility to address the gap. Leave Fergus out of it, he’s having what I can guarantee is a horrible time and it will eat up his life until it is over.

    1. OP#3

      Thanks for this. I’m so sorry for what you’re going through, but it is very helpful to get a real reminder of what it looks like from the other side. I appreciate it a lot.

  36. Lady Phoenix

    I like fistbumps. They are quick, have little contact, and are very easy to customize and make your own (my fav and default being Baymax’s Balalalala).

    I hate handshakes. Men either turn into dead fish, or attempt to destroy my fighting hand. i hate hugs from strangers or dudes I barely know.

    But you have to fistbump everyone. Stop with the him/her treatment. Side eyeing all the religious ones who do it too. No, I am your coworker, not some Sucubus out to steal your p3n1s, so treat me like a coworker.

    1. Rumbakalao

      Your last paragraph is why this is so tricky.

      If I were a hiring manager I would feel really stuck between trying to avoid breaking discrimination rules and just plain not wanting to hire someone who thought that way. If that extends to an entire religion, then those males would not fit in with the culture I’d want to maintain in my workplace. Which is really unfortunate, but it’s not really a reasonable expectation to expect people to shift from a sexist/racist/homophobic worldview into an equitable mindset when they enter the office. That’s why they keep losing their jobs when the Barbeque Beckys of the world get outed.

      1. Lady Phoenix

        Sinple solution: Don’t fistbump anyone.

        And in the meantime, think hard is some “traditions” should be treated, as the Pirates would say, “more like guidelines than actual rules”.

      2. Slink

        I’d feel the same way, but the thing is, you can’t ever legally refuse to hire someone because of their religion. If, during their employment, they are discriminatory, you can call them aside (or just fire them) and say they this is a liability for our company. If a person’s religion X prevents them from treating men/women with equal respect in the workplace, the onus is on THEM to refuse to work in a place where that’s going to be a company liability. They don’t get to decide what’s legal or not, just like hiring mgrs don’t. Discrimination on the basis of gender, regardless of religion, is still illegal. You can simply fire the guy (or woman) who committed the act(s). But yeah, as a hiring mgr, i’d Have a tough time wanting to hire someone who was say a southern baptist or someone like Mike Pence. Gets into a whole sticky mess no one wants.

  37. Strawmeatloaf

    #1: He should do either, but not both. I guess it might be one of those overreactions from the #metoo movement where men think that they can’t have any interaction with a woman or touch her in any way or else it’s “sexual harassment” because they can’t just treat women like they would a normal person (aka “guy” to them).

  38. Someone Else

    For OP2 this is not necessarily just about optics. It can be about bandwidth. Where I used to work we had enough to support the organization, but a very tight budget and very few options. Periodically we’d have sudden network slowdowns and it would almost always trace back to someone streaming movies for hours. If people were doing the type of things with the internet we expected out of our work, everything was fine. If 3-4 people with a slow afternoon started watching movies, all of sudden our production environment would slow to a crawl and it was a pain in the ass to figure out why. I know some folks will say “well then block that” but there were business reasons to stream video sometimes by some people. So it wasn’t that simple, and we simply weren’t in a position to pay for more for activity that had no business reason to be done on our network.
    That may or may not apply in OP2’s case, but it’s still a good reason not to stream (or torrent) at work.

  39. AnotherKate

    For #2: If I found out one of my subordinates was watching whole TV shows while they worked, you can bet I’d ascribe any error they made to the distraction. Short YouTube video or clip during a break? Sure, fine, I love breaks! But having an inherently visual medium on one side of your screen while you’re doing editing or data entry on the other is a recipe for losing your place/getting distracted. The eye will be drawn to the moving pictures; I can’t actually believe this is even a question.

    If someone has a show on their phone that’s flipped over or in a minimized window so neither they nor I can see it, that’s a different matter because that converts it to an audio-only experience, and I don’t care if people use headphones to listen to music or podcasts. Background noise IS useful for focusing, as a lot of people have noted, but if you are actually WATCHING something…that means you aren’t watching your work, and that’s not ok.

    1. Anax

      You’re very firm that ALL people’s eyes are drawn to moving pictures, and I can say that for me, that’s definitely not the case!

      I do think that’s a potential neurological difference. I love flashing lights in the corner of my eye, they’re soothing and help me stay focused. I don’t *look* at the screen even when I’m at home watching TV, but having a mild visual stimulus is nice.

      I’m probably an edge case – but on the other hand, most software programmers I know are neurodiverse in some way, so… there’s some variance, brains work differently.

  40. Jennifer

    #4 I’m wondering if there is key information we are missing here. Does this person not respond well to any sort of feedback or is she super sensitive? Alison’s advice is perfect. Just say, “this is just going to be me and X.” Or you could say, “as an FYI, I’ll be meeting with X today one-on-one.”Or you could say, “as an FYI, I’ll be meeting with X today one-on-one.” There’s no reason for her to assume she will be invited when she hasn’t received an invitation.

    1. AnotherKate

      100%! But I’m not lying to myself that I’m doing work WHILE I’m reading/responding to this. It’s a break.

    2. Rumbakalao

      Distraction aside, the optics of scrolling through this website is not at all the same as having Youtube up on your monitor.

    3. LJay

      LOL this is part of why I watched Netflix videos at work in the past. It occupies my ADHD brain.

      If my brain isn’t stimulated by my work, (and most of my work is not stimulating), I’ll seek out stimulation like posting here. And I’m much more productive listening to Friends and doing my work than I am typing out comments here and not doing my work.

  41. Rae

    I am very involved in a volunteer group comprised solely of women. At our yearly state convention I could easily be introduced to 50+ women. I always stick my hand out to shake hands and I swear at least 80% of them are caught off guard. Not sure if I’m weird for always initiating a handshake.

  42. L. S. Cooper

    LW#4: Please be specific on if she’s invited or not! I’m in a similar boat to this employee– there’s a lot of meetings I get actual, bonafide Outlook invites to, but just so I’m aware of them. (I’m often responsible for tracking down slideshows from various departments to compile into one slideshow for the meeting, so I need to know what’s up with these meetings.) It can get really confusing, especially as a new employee, to know which meetings you’re supposed to go to and which ones are just an FYI. Your employee might be trying to make a good impression and avoid being seen as a slacker.

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

      Absolutely! I’ve been in LW 4’s employee’s shoes before, and it can be confusing to keep hearing about important meetings coming up but not knowing whether you’re supposed to be in them. I like Alison’s advice to just be matter of fact about it – unless employee has a major attitude problem (which is a separate and larger issue), she’ll be glad to know what to expect.

      I would also ask that you please try not to embarrass her if she assumes she’s invited to a meeting that she’s not. In my first entry level fundraising job, my boss would talk all the time about her big meetings coming up, but never make it clear whether I needed to be there (sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t). Once I brought in a blazer because of a meeting, and when she saw it she said “WHY do you have a blazer?” Thrown off, I answered “Well, VIP is coming in today” and she just stared at me and shook her head, and made me feel stupid for trying to prepare for a meeting I wasn’t invited to. I didn’t care AT ALL about not being in the meeting, but being treated like an imbecile for not automatically knowing whether or not I was expected to be present was terrible and demoralizing.

  43. Gobsmacked

    #2, I advise caution. The work you’re describing doesn’t really sound like things that can be done without your real mental engagement in the work, and you say watching, rather than listening, so I’m not sure if you’re playing this for background noise, or actually looking at the screen, even it it’s intermittent. I had an employee who watched TV at her desk constantly, and her work was just not high quality. I talked with her about it several times and she insisted the TV wasn’t impacting her work, but I definitely feel it had a part to play.

    1. Stacey McGill

      I agree; this sounds off to me. Unless you’re, I don’t know, watching the front desk of a hotel and there is lots of downtime when people aren’t checking in, I just can’t imagine many jobs where you can mentally disengage enough to watch TV.

  44. Jennifer Juniper

    OP4: I’m mystified by your employee. Why would she want to come to more meetings than she has to? Almost everyone thinks meetings are boring time wasters.

  45. WonderWoman

    LW2 – for Netflix, you could turn on the audio descriptions feature so that scenes are read out to you while you listen. Then you could stick your phone in your pocket or turn it face down on your desk so that people can’t see the screen.

  46. bippity-boppity-bacon

    OP5, do you actually know that the position has been hired for? It’s been ‘a couple months’ but hiring times vary widely among industries and companies. It seems like you’re assuming an awful lot.

    1. OP #5

      I guess I don’t. The application deadline was almost exactly two months ago (just over), and I know there were several rounds of interviews to get to. I know the organization is very small. I’ve decided against emailing them regardless.

  47. CM

    #4 — There’s one part of this story that sounds weird to me: it seems like external partners are dictating who comes to the meeting. That’s not normal, in my experience. Usually your organization would make an internal decision about who needs to attend the meeting from your side, depending what it’s about (even if the meeting’s with the funder). If you’re NOT making that decision (or your boss is not or no one at your company is), then, yeah, it’s really weird to try to explain why someone from your team isn’t invited, because it’s weird for an outsider to pick and choose who’s allowed to talk to them. So, if that’s what’s happening, I think the bigger issue is resolving that problem and making sure you guys are getting to pick your own attendees for your meetings.

    If it actually is an internal decision, then it’s a lot easier because you can just explain whatever the reason is.

  48. Slink

    Correction: do update her if it’s appropriate, but don’t ‘update her about every part of your upcoming day’. TMI, and weird. Hi, we’re going to lunch, NO you can’t come. Oh hey Sophie, Lyle and I are going to have a meeting with Carol, NO you can’t come to that either. Gosh Sophie what’s wrong with you? See?

  49. Slink

    #5: it’s tempting to wonder, and you can always ask the hiring mgr, if you know who they are, how you might improve your resume or skill set to improve your chances in future. Don’t ask as a ‘why didn’t you want me?’ Question since it’s generally liability territory for anyone to answer that Q. I never ever answer that. And don’t ever say hey i think i was better than some of those guys, why not me? Even if it’s 100% true. But you can say ‘hey i was really disappointed not to get the job at your bean bag company. I really like your mission, all those pretty bean bags, and if you have the time i’d Be grateful if you could offer advice as to how i might improve my resume and skill set so that in future I can be a better candidate. I have answered those. Esp for junior candidates, since no one is born with resume writing skills. Sometimes I just give them generic advice (esp if their resume is so badly written it’s a dumpster fire.) sometimes i give more specific feedback. Sometimes i just tell them i was looking for someone with skill set x and y and i notice they don’t have a lot of that. Whatever they tell you, even if you think it’s poo, don’t write back argumentatively. The jig is up, they didn’t hire you. Don’t torpedo future chances by getting on a ‘never ever hire’ list. Esp since people move around to different companies within fields. Just thank them for the advice, respond with more q’s if appropriate (not too many, needy folks are a red flag too), and try to incorporate what they said, if it appears good.

  50. OllardT

    Lw5: I would double check you don’t have one of those grievous spelling errors you mention in your cover letter or resume. It’s “shoo-in” not “shoe-in” for example.

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